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If you get the chance, chat to pupils; they are the ones who really know what's happening both inside and outside of the classroom. Try not to ask leading questions; similarly don't ask closed questions, especially if visiting a senior boys' school, otherwise you may elicit little more than a grunt.

Bede's Preparatory School

  • Are they relaxed and happy or formal in approach?
  • Do they seem keen, ambitious? 
  • Are they interested in you and do they mention any of their achievements or those of others?
  • Can you imagine your child sitting amongst them in class?

The school

  1. Why did you choose this school? Are you glad you chose it?
  2. What do you like best about the school? Don't be surprised if it's break-times...
  3. What subjects do you like best? (This often reveals the most popular members of staff.)
  4. Are you happy here? Who wouldn't like it or fit in here?
  5. Are you allowed to be an individual, to get on with your own thing, without teasing or bullying? (This might flush out peer group pressure to conform.)
  6. What changes would you make if you were in charge? Don't be surprised if it is extended break-times....
  7. Where is the head’s office? What do you think of them?
  8. Have you got a brother or sister in the school; what does he/she think of it?
  9. What happens if you forget your books, calculator, homework?
  10. Do teachers mark your work promptly and explain where you've gone wrong? What happens about corrections?

Fun and games - are pupils given a sporting chance?

  1. How difficult is it to get selected for a school sports team or choir or after-school club?
  2. Is it okay not to like/be good at sport? (Boys’ schools in particular).
  3. Do girls get equal sporting opportunities? (Co-ed schools).
  4. Are there trips, tours and teams for all - or just the chosen few?

If you are looking at boarding:

  1. What is the food like? Is there a good choice, with healthy options and old favourites?
  2. Can you make yourself tea and toast if you’re hungry?
  3. What do you do at weekends? Does this correspond with what the school says happens?
  4. How many stay for weekends? What ages?
  5. Is there someone you can discuss worries with?


Related articles

  • Choosing a school - thoughts for parents

    What do you want for your child? State school or fee-paying? Day or boarding school? Single sex or co-education? It helps to have a game plan, even if you change it at a later date. What do you want from the school? Undoubtedly you want to find a great school, one that's ideal for your child, with great teaching and possibly good facilities to match.

  • Catchment area cheat

    Pressure for places in the UK’s best state schools is intensifying with state grammar schools leading the way. Popular schools see upwards of 10 applicants for every place. In 2014, almost half of children in some areas have been rejected from their preferred secondary school. Catchment areas are already shrinking as parents who had planned on private schooling join the battle for places in the best state schools.

  • School open days

    They may not truly reflect day-to-day life at a school (this will be school at its best) but they'll give you a flavour of what's happening and allow you to soak up the atmosphere. They are your chance to have the upper hand, get a feel for the school and chat with pupils and staff. Do visit more than one school: it’s useful to compare and contrast.

  • Appealing for a school place

    Despite all you’ve heard about competition for places at the secondary school you want for your child, it’s still a huge shock when your offer comes through for Unpopular Academy instead. Don’t despair  - you have a legal right to appeal to any school named on your preference form. But it’s vital to have a back-up plan alongside going through the appeals process.

  • From embryo to eighteen - how to survive the education highway

    A lively look at education planning for children of all ages and their parents. We guide you through the schooling stages from 0-18 in both the independent and state sectors, and tell you what to plan for and when. 'Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.' John Wilmot Read more :  From embryo to eighteen - how to survive the education highway Further reading

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