What to Look for When Viewing a School
For those of us who are endeavouring to find the right school for our child be it primary, secondary or otherwise, it can be a daunting task, especially if you are new to parenting. It's an important decision to make because your child will have to spend a number of years there and in order for them to receive the best education possible it is important that they are settled and happy in their new school environment.
Some parents are happy to go with the recommendations of their Local Authority, especially if they are not in a position to afford travelling beyond their catchment area. So with this in mind it is important to look at the schools within your catchment area and look at them in depth.
Steps To FollowOnce your have made your decision as to which school you wish to send your child to, there are at least four things you can do to ensure that your choice is the right one, and that your child will be happy and will also receive the best education in relation to their abilities.
Firstly, make an appointment to visit the school and have a look around. Most schools are happy to allow this outside open days, as it is not always feasible for parents to be able to attend due to work commitments etc. You will find that head teachers are always willing to take time out to speak with you, and also to give you a tour of the school's facilities.
Take along a notepad and make notes. After all, in a short tour it is possible to forget things, which at the time may not seem important but may transpire to be so later on. Discuss with the head teacher why they think the school might be best suited to your child's needs. And indeed discuss with them how they think their school compares to others in the area.
Find out if the school has a parent-teacher association and make contact with them. Find out from them what they think of the school. You will find that most parents are happy to discuss with you the merits - and indeed pitfalls - of a school. Ask their children as well if you have the opportunity to. As we all know children have an unbridled honesty, and it is easy to decipher from their comments what is right and wrong with your possible school.
Fact FindingLocal newspapers often run stories on state run schools and compare them with other schools in the area. You can get in touch with newspapers and ask if they have run any such articles or stories and request copies of them. It is also worth getting hold of copies of league tables and seeing where your chosen school appears.
Newspapers such as The Sunday Times annually produce a well detailed league table for schools up and down the country. Local libraries are also a good source of information and, in a lot of instances, they may well hold copies of articles from newspapers or local magazines for you to look through.
Also, it is worth noting if you are moving from one area to another, your estate agent - or letting agent - will normally be able to provide you with a list of the schools in your area and also provide you with some information on the school as well. This is offered as part of their service and is worth taking advantage of.
Advice For During The VisitWhen visiting the school you should observe how the teachers behave with the children, are they welcoming or do they seem as though you are wasting their time? Find out how often the head teacher makes contact with the parents of the pupils under his/her guidance?
Are the teachers willing to discuss the curriculum with you? This is important because it shows that they have a thorough understanding of the curriculum through which your child is expected to learn?
Ask about school budgets; are they suffering as a result of cutbacks and is there anything you as a parent can do to ensure that your child does not suffer if cutbacks are in operation?
Make careful note of the amenities, school meals, library facilities, and Information Technology equipment, all of these are important. Are physical activities emphasised? Speak to the PE teacher if you can and discuss with them your child's individual requirements to see if they are catered for within the curriculum.
These may all sound like straightforward observations to make but it is important to make sure you cover as much ground as you can when visiting and looking into your child's prospective school.
Remember the teachers and head teachers are there to act as much on your behalf as on that of your child's so take full advantage of the time you have choosing your child's school and use it to the maximum.