Preparing your own list of questions before you visit a school is a useful exercise that forces you to consider what really matters when it comes to schooling your child. The list of questions below is deliberately not comprehensive – that would be doing all your homework for you! However, it does include some useful questions that could help reveal a school’s true character, its strengths and weaknesses.
Your own list should have different questions for pupils, staff and the Head, and cover areas such as atmosphere and ethos, academic approach & achievement, sports & extra-curricular, pastoral care, facilities, now and the future.
If you are really nosy, go to the school at the end of a school day and ask current parents for the inside story.
Questions to ask or to think about as you look round the school
- How is the school different from its main competitors in the area? What does the school do better? What are its principle weaknesses compared to other local schools?
- What are the Head’s ambitions for the school in the future? What does the school lack now?
- What kind of child does best in this kind of school? Who would not be happy at the school?
- What are the present class and year sizes – biggest and smallest? Check the official version with the reality
- What proportion of the children learn a language, play sport for the school, play an instrument, participate in the school orchestra or choir, perform in school plays?
- What is the Head’s attitude to bad behaviour and discipline? How does this tally with children’s account of behaviour and discipline in the school?
- What are the pupils like? Do you want your child to be like that? How do the pupils behave when they don’t know they are being observed by a parent or the Head?
- What are the staff like? What’s the staff age mix? Are they confident or nervous about being observed by a touring parent?