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【The Standard:Boarding Insider】 Making the most of open days

Boarding 101


“I’ll soon be traveling with my son to the UK to attend four independent school open days. Do you have any tips to get the most out of the school visits?”

Selecting a school is a long and arduous process and it is at least a good start that you intend to visit these schools as glossy brochures, inspection reports and overrated league tables can never paint a true picture about a school.

First of all, you should have advanced knowledge of the school.

It is better to read the school’s website and most recent inspection reports as it is better to be a thoughtful, interested and inquisitive parent than a passive one.

Prepare questions on paper in advance.

School visits must be investigative and you must be prepared to dig beneath the surface. This means scrutinizing the details.

Are there too many untucked shirts? Are bathroom facilities clean and inviting? How many extracurricular events appear on the school noticeboards? What sort of comments are children coming out with as they change classrooms?

Pride in pupils and their work and development should also be determined. For instance, is their work displayed on the walls? How do teachers address pupils and vice versa?

You should not be preoccupied with viewing grand multimillion-dollar facilities. Facilities are a vital component of a school but they do not dictate its character.

Parents are also advised to not let their tour guides show them what they want to show, but to make them go off the beaten path, so to speak.

Why not poke your nose into a few classrooms or sports halls when they may not necessarily be on the itinerary?

I have met far too many parents who have regretted not putting more questions to teachers and the headteacher, which is where being prepared with a list of questions comes into play.

The head’s speech may seem very commercial and public relation-y so it is best to learn the values of the school through surprise questions at unexpected moments.

After the visit, make a list of pros and cons of the school with your son. Do not be afraid to send the school further questions by e-mail or arrange an individual visit in the near future.

Picture: Gresham’s School

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