School Open Days: What To Ask

A school open house is your opportunity to experience the campus, teaching and student body first-hand. Get all the information you need by asking these key questions – and determine if the school is a good match for your child.
School Open Days: What To Ask
By Carli Allan
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You’ve done your online research, taken tips from other parents and now have your shortlist of schools ready. But this research only provides a glimpse of what a school is really like. Only by visiting the school and meeting staff and students can you can really make an informed decision about your child’s future.

The best way to get an accurate impression of the school ‘at work’ is to visit during school hours, and a good school should be more than happy to show a prospective parent around the facilities. If they aren’t, you should question whether they are proud of their school and students, or are more interested in impressing parents out of hours? However, schools will also often offer Saturday open houses to meet the needs of working parents.

Looking for a round up of Hong Kong’s international primary and secondary school open house dates for spring 2019? Click here.

Most schools will advertise their scheduled open days or school visits on their website; you may need to register for a place in advance. Alternatively, contact the school directly to arrange a personal tour.

Before or after visiting a campus, read our independent review of the school by searching here. Also, read our round up of Hong Kong’s top 20 schools, where to find a scholarship, and bilingual schools in Hong Kong.

Read on for WSA’s top questions to ask during a school visit.

Curriculum

• What curriculum does the school follow?
• How does the school encourage and monitor students' progress?
• How is technology used to support teaching and learning at the school?
• How do the arts fit into the curriculum? Is there a school choir, band or orchestra? A school production? Art classes?
• How does the school teach Mandarin?
• What is the school’s homework policy?
• How does the school support students who have academic, social or emotional difficulties? Does the school have a well-staffed learning support department?
• What extra-curricular activities are available? Can students play competitive sports against other schools?

School community

• Do the children seem happy and engaged?
• Are the children smart, personable and presentable? A school that adheres to a dress code or strict uniform, as well as neatness and politeness among students is a school that will be equally as conscientious in its teaching standards.
• What is the school's approach to children’s behaviour and safety?
• Is there an active Parent Teacher Association (PTA)?
• How does the school keep parents informed of news and information regarding the school faculty?
• Where do most of the students live?

Staff and students

• How many children are in each class?
• How many different nationalities of children?
• What are the nationalities of your staff?
• How do you recruit your staff?
• What is your staff retainment rate?

Campus and facilities

• Is the school well maintained? International schools can sometimes mask their shortfalls behind state-of-the-art facilities and a contemporary building design. You should always be looking for a tidy, clean and well-maintained school that focuses its efforts and its funds on the education of the pupils rather than the latest gadgets or modern interior design.
• What outdoor facilities are available for learning and play?
• Is it a large campus? If so, are the breaks and lunch staggered? Are the younger and older students separated from each other?

School day

• What are the school start and finish times, breaks, and academic calendar?
• Does the school offer hot/cold meals, or do students need to bring a packed lunch?

Admissions

• What is the ratio of applicants to acceptances for students?
• What are the age cut-offs? This can vary between schools offering different international curricula, so do check.
• If visiting a primary school, where do students continue their secondary schooling?

Location

• How far away is the school from your home?
• How do children travel to school? Is there a bus service?
• How are pick up and drop off times managed?

And finally… your gut instinct is usually correct, so if you feel comfortable with the school, trust your intuition and go for it.

Equally, if your child likes the school, feels comfortable and happy during the visit, then it probably is the right one for him or her. While you shouldn’t allow your child to have the casting vote, take their opinions and feelings into account before making your decision.

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