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2022 Blogs Junior Senior Sixth Form

Open Days – how to prepare and what to look out for

As well as being Head of Religion and Philosophy, Zak leads our digital vision. He was instrumental in developing our excellent online learning offering during lockdown, much to the relief of our parents, and is now leading the roll out of our school device programme.

Open Days – how to prepare and what to look out for

As well as being Head of Religion and Philosophy, Zak leads our digital vision. He was instrumental in developing our excellent online learning offering during lockdown, much to the relief of our parents, and is now leading the roll out of our school device programme.

We live in the age of information, where everything you could possibly want to know is instantly accessible at the tap of a touch-screen. Unfortunately, however, no amount of research will bring you any closer to knowing what a thing is actually like. Be it a car or a home or even those clothes you’ve been eyeing up, you won’t really know what you have until it’s there in front of you.

Schools and education providers are no different, which is why open days are so important. They give parents and students alike the opportunity to see first-hand what it feels like to be there, an essential part of any balanced, well-informed decision.

So, once you have the list of potential schools whittled down to the most promising candidates, make a note of their open day dates and attend as many as you can – and while you’re there, here’s a quick rundown of the things that will help you make the most of the visit:

Do your Homework
Research may not provide all the answers, but it’s always a good place to start. Like any sales literature, websites and prospectuses will have been written and designed to attract as many students as possible, but it will still give you a good idea of what to expect when you get there, along with prompting any questions you might have.

A good tip is to look out for what might be missing. A school might boast of their state-of-the-art sports facilities but have very little visible on their website, a good reason to ask to see them while you’re there.

Take the Tour
Don’t miss out on the chance to be shown around the campus, beyond the foyer and main hall. Bear in mind that there will have been a concerted effort to make things seem as clean and orderly as possible! Use the opportunity to see other facilities like sports fields and science labs if you have the time.

Be Curious
Nobody will be able to give a better account of what it’s like to be in a school than the staff and students who attend day-to-day. Luckily, at open events, there will likely be plenty of each on hand to answer any questions you might have. Make a list ahead of time so that you don’t forget to ask something important on the day. These might change from place to place, but a good starting point might include some of the following:

Questions for Staff:

  • How many students are there in an average class?
  • How long are the classes?
  • What kind of extra- and co-curricular activities are there to get involved with?
  • How well have previous students done?
  • What are the study facilities like? Labs; libraries; sports fields…

Questions for Students:

  • What is the best and worst thing about the school?
  • What support structures are in place and how easy are they to access?
  • What are the relationships between students and teachers like?
  • How has the experience of attending the school shaped their perception of education and the world of work?

Head’s Speech
“Parents need to listen to the head – leadership is everything in a school,” says Sir Michael Wilshaw, former head of Ofsted, “everything flows from good leadership.” Having also spent a number of years as a head teacher, Sir Michael is in a unique position to know.

The speech is useful in that it not only provides an insight into the establishment’s goals and ambitions but also into its wider culture and personality, according to Michelle Doyle Wildman, ex CEO of the parent group Parentkind: “The head’s speech gives you a good feel for the school… Is the school taking a whole-child approach or is it more focused on the academic achievement? That’s a nuance you want to get in this process of looking at schools.”

Groups, Events and Activities
Being successful in educational pursuits doesn’t end in the classroom; students are far more likely to thrive in an environment where their interests are engaged and supported beyond their basic timetable, so it is important for a school to have a well-developed infrastructure of co-curricular activities in place and for them to be easily accessible by all who are interested.

So, at the open day, remember these 3 questions: what happens, when and by how many? You might want to give special emphasis to those areas that are most relevant to you or your child’s interests, but getting a broader picture will help identify any weak points in their extra-curricular policies. Some of the areas worth asking about are:

  • Sports – The importance of physical exercise isn’t just a concern for the sporting elite. Are the field and track facilities easily accessible and inclusive for all, or does the school put more of its focus on the top performers?
  • Music and Art – Creative endeavour has been shown to have a positive effect on all sorts of things, from reducing stress and anxiety to developing resourcefulness and innovation, so it’s not hard to see the importance of having outlets available, even for those who might not think of themselves as creative individuals.
  • Travel and Exchange Programmes – What sort of school trips are organised, how often, and who can attend? Are they open to everyone, or is it first come, first served?

Get Involved…
Open days may not be a particularly accurate reflection of a school on an average day, but they offer a chance to get a feel for the place and the people, something which no computer screen can provide. Once you or your child has an idea what it will actually be like to be there, you will be a lot closer to knowing if it’s the right place for you. Before narrowing down your choices further, visit the school again on an ordinary working school day and sign your child up for any Taster Days, if available.

Ollie is a QEH 'lifer', as he joined QEH Juniors in Year 3, eleven years ago.  It's been great to watch his development through the years, both on and off the pitch.

Thank you Friends of QEH!

Ollie is a QEH 'lifer', as he joined QEH Juniors in Year 3, eleven years ago.  It's been great to watch his development through the years, both on and off the pitch.

Ollie signs for the Bears!

As well as being Head of Religion and Philosophy, Zak leads our digital vision. He was instrumental in developing our excellent online learning offering during lockdown, much to the relief of our parents, and is now leading the roll out of our school device programme.

Into the Wood!

Mr Dunn, Mr Martineau and five prefects, including the Captain of Boarders, took the Harvest Festival donations that QEH had received to The Community of the Sisters of the Church in St Paul's.

Harvest Donations

Pupils achieve a high standard of results in public examinations, reflecting their consistent progress through the school.
ISI Report, 2022
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