If you’ve travelled past schools in the last few weeks, you may have seen signage promoting their open days. This is actually the time of the year when parents are normally invited to check out prospective schools ahead of enrolling their children in either Kindergarten, Year 7 or Year 11.
Parents often tell me they are looking for three things when they attend open days. The first is the quality of learning and teaching – will the school be able to cater for the learning needs of their child? The second is student safety and well being – will their child feel safe and nurtured at school, and how effectively will the school address important issues like bullying should it occur? The third is communication – what does feedback look like between home/school or parent/teacher, and will parents be encouraged to play an active role in their child’s learning?
Primary school open days are usually run during school hours so that prospective parents and children can see learning and teaching in action. Some take place on the weekend.(parents of prospective secondary students seem to prefer after-school hours events). Open days and school tours are very important as they offer an opportunity to chat informally to teachers, parents and students and get a close-up look at the classrooms and the school’s facilities. They provide the chance to get a ‘feel for the school’.
Remember that first impressions count so when you and your child enter a school, ask yourself (and ask you child as well!) if it feels warm, welcoming and inclusive. Is the school clean and tidy? How friendly are the staff? How does the principal interact with you and your child? Are staff able to explain what the school can provide to your child in a way that is simple and clear? Sometimes in secondary schools, it will be the students who will meet you and you child, and lead the school tours. I cannot think of a better way of seeing a school than through the eyes of other students.
My advice is go to as many open days as you can in your local area and do your research. World of mouth is always valuable but also check out the school’s website and social media channels. This will give you an indication of what they see as important and worth sharing. Finally, bear in mind that much of what happens in schools is not always on show!
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta