It is that time for us. We have been looking around secondary schools, so I thought I’d share a little about what to expect when visiting potential secondary schools. Boo is in year 5, so she and I are doing the rounds a year early. There are several schools in our area and as they all seem to run their open evening during the same fortnight, I wanted to ensure we got to see them all by going early. I am also finding that it is really reassuring Boo as she has started to think ahead and get anxious about leaving her friends and moving on, but this is helping her to get excited about her next adventure.
Anyway, we have visited four secondary schools now, probably the only ones that we will go to. It’s meant that I have a good feel for what they each offer and I am familiar with their catchment areas. It has also meant that Boo has been able to tell me her favourite so we have a good idea of what we’ll be doing next year. We will then probably just visit her top two selections this time next year, along with the Husband, before completing the application process.
As we have been going along we have learned the sorts of things that we can expect to see, the things that we want to compare and the questions that we are interested in having answered, so I thought I’d share a few of those here in the hope it might help one or two of you when your time comes for visiting potential secondary schools…
You are going to have the chance to look around the school. Some of these tours you will be guided by pupils or staff and some you will make your own way around.
Ensure that you visit the departments that your child is more interested in, perhaps Science or Art, and take the time to chat to the staff and pupils. There are often demonstrations taking place in classrooms as well as examples of work and details about the curriculum so you can get an idea of what they will be studying in Year 7 and beyond.
If you do have pupils as guides, you can ask them about anything from timetables, to favourite subjects, to homework amounts to the best things about the school.
It is then good to check out the facilities available, from the dining room (look into menu options and where they will be for lunch), the sports areas and the technology available to support learning.
Most open evenings will have a headteacher’s speech, they usually run two to three times during the evening to allow for everyone to get in and hear it. Do make this a priority.
You can learn a lot about a school and its priorities from this speech. It can give you a feel for the ethos of the school and there are usually one or two pupils who share some of their experiences, which is also very useful to hear.
Useful things to ask
Now this one is going to vary according to your child’s own interests and personality to an extent, so do ensure that you address any specific concerns that you have.
You will then want to be clear on the admissions policy and catchment area, as this will need to be factored into your decisions. It is also good to understand how the pupils are supported when they first join the school, how does the transition work? What sort of homework will they receive and will it be online so parents can support? What would a typical week look like for a Year 7? You can also find out about extra curricular offerings and clubs that the school runs, upcoming school trips, and incentives for good behaviour.
Along with the evenings, many schools run sessions during the day, so I think that next year I will take Boo to a day session at her favourite school, too, so that she gets to see it in its normal state, rather than just at an open evening with hundreds of parents milling about.
I will say this, I am tired! Boo loves looking around, whereas my head spins with loads of questions as I try to imagine her in that setting, figuring out where I think she would be happiest. It’s a big decision, as I want her to continue to love school and enjoy the next seven years of her education. At least we have a front-runner now, that we are both happy with.
How did you go about choosing a secondary school for your children? Or are you going through this now too?