Skip to main content

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

  • Subscribe to the Good Schools Guide

    Instant access to: independent reviews of 1,100 schools in the UK, easy to digest exam data for English schools, interactive catchment area maps,  comprehensive advice on state and independent schools, tutors and special needs.   'The Good Schools Guide school reviews are communicative, interesting, appropriately humorous and reflect an opinion. Well done to you.' - A parent  "the guide regarded as the bible for middle-class school choice" THE GUARDIAN 

  • Questions to ask when visiting a school - academic matters

    Don't rely on league tables  - look beyond the headlines. Check-out our detailed analysis of results for English state schools to uncover how well a school does for a child like yours. Whether the most able, least able or Annie Average, what matters is how enthusiastic the school is about teaching and developing a child.

  • Questions to ask when visiting a school - beyond the classroom

    Every school says it has plenty of extracurricular activities, but don’t take their word for it. The only drama on offer might be staff fleeing, when the whistle blows! Academic excellence is important but don't underestimate the value of great pastoral care, trips, sport, music, the arts...and how welcome parents are - or not.

  • The British system

    Normal primary school admissions are at 3+ into the nursery or 4+ into the reception class. Some are divided into infant and junior schools, the latter starting at 7 years. Most secondary schools start at 11. For a normal application, you will need to apply – with a local address - by around mid-January for primary schools and the end of October of the year before entry for secondary schools.

  • Exams update

    The revised primary national curriculum started in 2014. English involves more focus on spelling, punctuation and grammar, including mastery of the subjunctive and semi-colons, plus the ability to spell 200 complex words such as controversy, environment, conscience and mischievous, by the end of key stage 2. It also include the use of formal spoken English, to be developed through, eg, poetry reciting.

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1,100+ schools.
 Overall school performance by GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 GSG Blog >    In the news >


Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Transgender policy now needed in every school

3rd editions of Good Schools Guide - London North and South now available, all entries fully revised with 2016 results. Buy now...