PICKING the right school for your child is a minefield as parents try and cut through the niceties to discern what life would really be like at a school.
As establishments up and down the country fling open their doors to welcome a new wave of applicants, it can be a daunting task narrowing down your options.
For some, this will be the first time they set foot in a school since their own adolescence and they have no idea what to look out for.
But teacher Daniel Steele offered four practical tips for parents on the hunt.
Look out for the leaders
First off, it’s check to check out the teachers and school leaders as they are the backbone of the whole place.
Writing for Mama Mia, Daniel said: “They are the front line to helping your child, a class, and the school make that positive impact on those little humans of ours.
“Whilst the teachers are the front line, the leaders within a school shape and guide the tone, feel, and direction of a school – for good or bad.”
He suggested grabbing a quick chat with the head teacher, any assistant heads and anyone else from the leadership team and listening hard to make sure they really care about the students.
You can work this out by listening to hear if they know the student’s names, if they know what’s going on in the classes and can give you details about the programmes on offer.
Ask how they look out for those who need extra support
Daniel encouraged parents to ask what steps a school takes to enrich their students and offer extra support where needed.
He said: “In classrooms that really know students, teachers are great at making tweaks to learning experiences, or instructions, so that every child can get into and progress their learning (This is at the heart of teaching and is also what can make it so incredibly amazing and complex).”
With that in mind, he said to look out for classes where ever student is given the same work sheet and if they are it may be a red flag.
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Ask the students what they think
A school is so much more than just the lessons, it’s also a culture and a community of its own and the people who are best placed to talk to you about that, are definitely the students.
Schools may bamboozle you with buzz words but Daniel suggests looking past this to listen for specific examples.
He said: “If they profess respect or dignity – do people do the simple and small things, like holding a door for someone, using people’s names, or not talking over people?”
If the students take you on a tour, Daniel explained that this is the ideal time to ply them with questions about life at the school.
Don’t go and visit on the open day
In order to streamline their time and pack in as many people as possible, most schools have set open days when you can come and look at the place.
Daniel’s savvy tip is to see if you can come and check it out on a normal day, when they aren’t so prepared for visitors.
Daniel said: “Keep in mind that no place is perfect, but watch and enjoy (and if you see some great things, make sure to let the school know so they pass it onto the teachers and students).”
You can read more from Daniel Steele on his blog Upgrade Think Learn.
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