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?
- Why did you choose this school? Are you glad you chose it?
- What do you like best about the school? Don't be surprised if it's break-times...
- What subjects do you like best? (This often reveals the most popular members of staff.)
- Are you happy here? Who wouldn't like it or fit in here?
- 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.)
- What changes would you make if you were in charge? Don't be surprised if it is extended break-times....
- Where is the head’s office? What do you think of them?
- Have you got a brother or sister in the school; what does he/she think of it?
- What happens if you forget your books, calculator, homework?
- 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?
- How difficult is it to get selected for a school sports team or choir or after-school club?
- Is it okay not to like/be good at sport? (Boys’ schools in particular).
- Do girls get equal sporting opportunities? (Co-ed schools).
- Are there trips, tours and teams for all - or just the chosen few?
If you are looking at boarding:
- What is the food like? Is there a good choice, with healthy options and old favourites?
- Can you make yourself tea and toast if you’re hungry?
- What do you do at weekends? Does this correspond with what the school says happens?
- How many stay for weekends? What ages?
- Is there someone you can discuss worries with?