You have a balanced view of education...

You have a balanced view of education. You care about all of the different approaches a school may take and you are open minded about the best approach for your child. The following guide will help you to get the information you need when visiting secondary schools.

It is important to remember that the information you get during an open day or school visit, should be placed in context with the other information you have available. Your decisions should not be based on one factor alone. I can’t give advice, I can only provide you with tools to make the best choice for you and your family.

What to look out for in the school...

  • What is the library like?
  • What type of textbooks are seen in classrooms?
  •  How are the classrooms set out? Rows might suggest more ‘teacher-led’ lessons.
  • Does the school use ‘setting’ to divide students by academic ability?
  • How do the teaching staff interact with you, your child and other children? Especially notice how they interact with any student volunteers.
  • What are the music, drama, art and PE facilities like?
  • Can you see any notices about clubs or trips on the walls?
  • Are there any displays of school rules and consequences?
  • Do students have to walk around the school in a certain way? For example, walking in silence, following a one-way system etc.
  • How do the displays look? Are they well-kept?
  • What are the toilets like?

What to listen out for in presentations...

  • Does the head give examples of the ‘destinations’ of former pupils? For example, the number of students who have gone on to high-performing institutions/professions.
  • Does the head celebrate the experiences of the pupils?
  • Are trips, clubs or societies mentioned?
  • Does the head talk about the future and the skills needed in the next 25 years?
  • Are other career routes discussed? For example, encouraging enterprise or apprenticeships?
  • When do students pick exam options? How much choice do they have?
  • Does the head talk about school rules or consequences?

What to ask teachers...

  • What do you love about your subject?
  • What trips do students go on?
  • What is it like during lesson transitions?
  • What do students typically do during break and lunch time?
  • Do students behave well?
  • How does the behaviour system work in reality?
  • What approach to pedagogy is taken here?
  • How are students with special educational needs / high starting points supported or stretched to ensure they thrive?
  • Are students individual circumstances taken into account?
  • How many teachers in this department mark for exam boards? Exam boards hire teachers to grade papers – it can help give an understanding of how to get the most marks in exams.
  • What is staff turnover like? Are there many new teachers? Stability and experience can be helpful in passing exams.

What to ask students...

  • Do you have many supply teachers? 
  • What grades do you expect to leave with?
  • Which subjects are you doing well in? Why?
  • Which subjects are you struggling with? Why?
  • Are you happy here?
  • What kind of things do you do in your tutor time?
  • What has been your most memorable experience of this school so far?
  • Is there any bullying here?
  • What is it like walking between lessons?
  • What do students do at break and lunch time?
  • What is it like leaving school and getting home?
  • Are all students well behaved here?