Open days: do your homework in advance

The Telegraph, 19/03/15, Josie Gurney-Read reveals the six questions every parent should ask at a school open day. HMC member Sue Freestone, head of King's Ely and Taunton School feature.

When you’re doing the rounds of open days, it’s easy to be taken in by the classroom displays, the head’s impressive talk and the state-of-the-art science labs. But if you really want to choose the right place for your child, it’s vital to veer off the beaten track — both in terms of the facilities you see and the ground you cover with your questions.

How do you get on with your teachers?

Why you should ask: “Parents should be looking out for how those in charge relate to pupils in the corridors,” advises Declan Rogers, registrar at Taunton School, Somerset. “Do pupils say ‘good morning’ to staff? Do the staff address pupils by name? Does the minibus driver talk to pupils? Actively looking out for this kind of information will tell you a lot about the spirit of the place.

“You also need to find out whether there’s a culture of respect. Good indicators of this are pupils looking teachers in the eye, holding doors open for others and being polite. You want to be reassured that you’re sending your child somewhere that’s more than just a school — it should be a caring community.”

Can we have a quick look around the music practise rooms?

Why you should ask: “Ideally, parents should have time before the tour to say which areas they would most like to explore,” says Sue Freestone, head of King’s Ely, Cambridgeshire. “So if your child is a keen musician, you should ask to speak to the director of music. And if you’re interested in finding out what the art rooms are like, make sure you’re given a chance to do that.

“It’s also good, where possible, to speak to pupils who have similar interests to your child’s, both academic and extra-curricular. If they can convey their passion for them, then clearly, the school is doing something right.”

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