An open day is when a school or kindy allows members of the public to go in and see what happens there. They are usually pretty formal, with speeches from the principal and the Board, and with chosen pupils showing the guests around the school.
It’s the school’s sales pitch and they’ll present themselves in the best light possible. Still, you can deduce the school's priorities from what is missing, or what they discuss at length, for example, an emphasis on iPads as a learning tool, or no mention of parental involvement.
Typically, parents choose a school or preschool based on a combination of three things:
· analysing information contained in ERO reports and marketing materials;
· word of mouth;
· a gut response during a visit to the school.
You can search online and study the brochures, but they won’t convey the atmosphere of the school. Once you have a shortlist of schools you’re interested in, it makes sense to come in and get a feel for the place, see the students’ projects, talk to the families, ask questions.
Every parent will have their own list of priorities and questions. Here are starter-lists to get you rolling.
· How do the students treat one another?
· How does the school deal with bullying?
· Are the students’ toilets fresh-smelling? Is there soap in the soap dispenser?
· How good are the facilities and clubs your child may be interested in using (sport, art, library, woodwork workshop, kitchen)? Do they include beginners? Do they have B teams for sport?
· Does the school celebrate personal achievement?
· Ask the teachers why they chose to work at this school and whether they would send their own child there. Look for enthusiasm, a caring attitude and a real love of teaching.
Write down your feelings and observations as soon as possible - it’s easy to forget your first impressions when you have more than one school on your list.