Choosing a School - Top 10 Tipsby Denise Vincent
Schools today are laying much more emphasis on marketing and branding, often creating an image that’s not quite the full picture. Savvy parents are aware that they need to delve beneath the polished prospectus and carefully crafted open day in order to choose the right school for their child.
After talking to Mums with school age children here are my ten top tips on how to avoid the marketing trap.
1. Open days are great for seeing the facilities a school has to offer but take into account that this is the school at its best. You can guarantee they’ve chosen their best teachers, smartest and most articulate pupils and will put on a prize winning performance to help sell their school. View open days with caution and if possible visit the school on a working day.
2. First impressions count. Don’t dismiss the reception staff and other employees around the school? Are they efficient and polite? Do they look happy in their job? Happy staff are the backbone of a happy school.
3. Do you like the Head? What are their values, beliefs and passions? What is their vision? Are they showing an interest in your child and how do staff and children respond to them?
4. What are your general impressions of the buildings and grounds? Is there a sense of pride in the surroundings and most importantly do you and your child feel at home?
5. How are the children behaving? If you can see them during break time this will give you a good insight into behaviour. Try to speak to pupils around the school. Are they confident, friendly and outgoing and perhaps more significantly - are they smiling. Ask them what happens to badly behaved children or bullies – their answer will tell you a lot about behaviour in the school.
6. Ask the Head or teachers whether they would send their child to this school. They are hardly likely to say no but watch their body language when they answer.
7. Try before you buy - ask whether the school offers a taster day.
8. Do some spying. Other parents are an obvious source of information but ask in local shops and use the internet to see if there are any articles or blogs, official or unofficial, about the school.
9. Avoid choosing a school purely on academic achievement. Often high performing schools are high pressure environments – is this where your child will perform best?
10. View Ofsted reports with caution. They may be some years out of date and a lot can change between reports. People will flock to a school with an outstanding Ofsted report and the increase in numbers can often be the schools undoing.
Don’t forget your child is unique with individual needs. Trust your judgement as you know your child best and armed with the right information and a keen eye you will find a school where your child can be happy and thrive. So do your homework, make a shortlist and go out and visit schools with an access all areas style tour. Choosing a school is just as important as buying a property and most of us wouldn’t buy a house without opening a few cupboards and asking the odd awkward question.