At this time of year newspapers and the backs of buses are full of adverts for School Open Days. These are an excellent opportunity to discover more about the potential next stages in your child’s education. There are though some aspects of school life which can be more difficult to uncover on an Open Day.
One of the most important questions to ask is how will my child be looked after? It can be difficult on an Open Day to show this off so do ask other parents with experience of the School. At Nottingham High School students are placed into tutor sets consisting of three pupils from each year in the School and the tutor and assistant tutor look after the pupil throughout their school career. This sort of continuity of care is hugely appreciated by current parents, indeed it is seen to be one of the strongest features of our school but it is difficult to ‘show’ this on an Open Day.”
Another important issue for parents is how effective are the School communications? Again this is difficult to show on an open day but there are some clues which can be useful. Thus, n the case of Nottingham High School we publish the email of every member of staff on the school website and so parents and students can always contact our staff. In many schools there is just one email address given for all issues to go to and this can mean that you never quite know who you will hear from.”
Depending on how stage-managed an Open Day can be it can be difficult to fully understand the ethos of a school. Here the best thing to do is to talk to as many students as possible. Perhaps find out whether they have been handpicked to show you around or as in the case of Nottingham High School all senior pupils help with this. They can tell you about the approachability of the Head, the strength of working relationships with the staff, whether the staff are happy in their work and quite simply if they enjoy being at the School.
Be careful too of the statistics quoted, if comparing two schools make sure that you have the same figures to compare as these can be presented in so many different ways. Ask about the numbers who get to their first choice university, or on to the most competitive courses such as Medicine or who get to Oxford and Cambridge. These are just a few examples but do ask about what matters to your own child.
Despite all this it is very much worth visiting a school open day but do dig below the surface to ensure that you get to fully understand what the School is really like.