Open Days: How To See 'Beyond the Smiles'

Open Days: How To See 'Beyond the Smiles'
By C Hoppe
Do your children attend a UAE school? Take our survey and help other parents.
WhichSchoolAdvisor's annual school survey.

With Open Day 'silly-season' once again upon us, we've asked the educators around the uae to tell us what they think parents should look for and the questions they should ask to get the most out of any open day.


First Impressions
"How secure and safe is the school? What obvious security measures are in place? Are staff wearing IDs? What procedures do parents and students have to comply with to get through the gate?" Lyn Soppelsa, Director, Consultancy Services,

"How welcoming is the school and how are you greeted? What is the 'feel' is it bright, with lots of students' work on display?" James, teacher, Abu Dhabi

"How enthusiastic are the students and teachers you come into contact with? Can you ask questions of the students? What sort of interaction exists between staff (both teaching and admin) and the students- is it caring, positive etc?" Lyn Soppelsa, Director, Consultancy Services,

What are the facilities like? They don't need to be the most modern or largest, but are they appropriate for the children being taught with lots of suitable resources available? Is there good outdoor space so that students can spend time outside getting adequate exercise?" Lyn Soppelsa, Director, Consultancy Services,


The All Important Research
"Visit the school website to check and look at the biographies of the teaching faculty in particular." Sue Carpenter, Principal at Dubai British Foundation"

"Do some 'Google' research, visit sites, YouTube and forums where students post.  I've seen both terrible and great things written about schools here, there really is loads out there, and it gives you a really good idea of how the students feel about the school." Noel, Dubai Teacher.

"Check among your friends to see if there is positive 'word of mouth' about the school you're visiting." Sue Carpenter, Principal at Dubai British Foundation


The Walk-About
"Go by all means, but always remember this is the best the school is ever going to look!" Dina, Teacher Abu Dhabi

"Ask to see a lesson. How active are the children? Are they allowed to move around and be part of discussions or are they all at their desks the whole time being lectured by the teacher? Laura, teacher, Dubai "

Does the school have any special educational needs support for students and what facilities do they have to support a child with learning difficulties? Take note of the teaching assistants, are they in all the classes you observe? Ask if and how they they would support a child in class, can they provide a shadow teacher or do they have the ability to work with the child individually or in small groups?" Rachel Jex, school nurse and ADHD Support Group founder, Dubai

"Does the school have the option for any speech and language support on site, occupational therapy or physiotherapy?  Rachel Jex, School Nurse and ADHD support group founder, Dubai

"How do the staff and parents interact with each other? How do the staff and students interact? What do the classrooms look like? Is the school freakishly silent or is there the sound of somewhat organized chaos?" Laura teacher Dubai


Killer Questions
For The Principal: "What is staff turnover per year and how many supply teachers are currently filling positions?" James, teacher, Abu Dhabi

"What is the lunch policy, is it healthy? Are there both provided meal and lunchbox options? Do all classes eat daily in the canteen and how long do they have there?" Cursty Mitchell,

"The teachers - nationalities, ages and experience!" Dina, teacher Abu Dhabi"

Ask if there is bullying in the school, and be aware if they say there isn't any they're lying! Ask to see the bullying policy, how is the behaviour prevented and how is it dealt with." Dina, teacher Abu Dhabi"

What percentage of the school population has been there 3+ years?" Laura, teacher, Dubai"

Is there a school nurse on campus and what nationality are they? Who holds a first Aid certificate and or Pool life guard qualification?  If you child has a specific health issue I would recommend speaking to the nurse and ensuring that they know the condition and are able and happy to treat it." Rachel Jex, School Nurse and ADHD support group founder, Dubai

Speak To Students"If you want to know about behaviour issues in the school, ask the students what happens to naughty kids and bullies?" Noel, Teacher Dubai.

"Is there a buddy policy for new kids or those who are having trouble making friends?" Amelia, teacher Dubai."

Do you get homework? Is it marked regularly and by whom? Can you understand the comments?" Amelia, teacher, Dubai


When Alarm Bells Should Ring

"Go to the children's toilets and you will learn all you need to know!" Sally, Teacher, Dubai

"Unhappy, disenfranchised teachers, how do you know this? Check for vacancies either on their site or advertised on teaching sites." Sally, teacher Dubai


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