What sort of questions should parents ask when visiting a potential independent school?
Visiting the schools you are considering is crucial; as schools are all about people and spending some time there is the only way parents can really assess the atmosphere and ‘feel’ for the school and whether it presents the right learning environment for their child. The school may have changed a great deal since Dad or Mum was there and it is important to assess the schools on what you find now, and the needs of your child, rather than how things were some time ago.
Try not to visit more than three or four schools or it can become confusing. Do however visit more than one school, as it is important to make comparisons, to establish what you are not looking for, as well as what you are.
Always book an individual visit on a normal school day, rather than attending an open day, when the school is on show. It is useful to take along with you a list of questions and to take notes, so that you can make comparisons between schools, after you have toured them all.
We suggest taking a list of questions with you and taking notes on each school you visit for easy comparison. Our help sheet provides space to note down and compare each school as well as all our recommended questions to ask. On sale now for just £4.99 in our online store:
Some sample questions from the book can be found below. Find more inside the Questions to Ask on a School Visit guide above:
- How long has the Head been in place?
- Does the school offer continuous progression from age 5 through to age 11 or 13?
- What is the academic pace and focus of the school?
- Are the pupils grouped by ability?
- Do children learn other languages and at what age do they start?
- Are there trips and events to develop and widen their interest and knowledge outside the classroom curriculum?
- How is the pastoral welfare of the pupils monitored and how are parents kept informed?
- For parents who both work, are there any activities or childcare facilities offered before and after school?
- If relevant, what is the school’s success record in the 11+?
- Is the school strong in particular sports, music, drama or art?
- Do the pupils appear well-mannered, standing aside for visitors at a doorway, for example?
No two schools are the same. We are fortunate to have such a great diversity of choice, so all parents can find a school that meets their aspirations. I am certain that once you visit the schools on your shortlist, equipped with these questions, and some of your own, you will be able to make a decision on the school that is the best one to suit the needs of your child.