What to Look for When Visiting a School

If you're currently touring schools, trying to determine which of them is 'the one', here are five things to look out for that we think will help you to your destination... If you have any additional tips for parents following in your footsteps - leave them in the comments section below!
What to Look for When Visiting a School
By David Westley
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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, meeting staff and students and seeing how the establishment functions can you can really make an informed decision about your child’s future. Read on for WSA’s five key things to consider during a prospective school visit.

Also see The 20 Questions You Need to Ask When Visiting a School.

1. Is it an evening visit or during school time?

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 question whether they are proud of their school and students, or are more interested in impressing parents out of hours?

2. 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. “The first impression I had of my chosen school was that the students were so confident speaking to their peers. They knew how to behave in adult company, and even the youngest children were able to answer questions politely and clearly. I knew this is how I wanted my boys to behave,” said Maia, an Indian mother of three boys based in Abu Dhabi.

3. Is the school well maintained?

Private schools can sometimes mask their shortfalls behind state of the art facilities and a contemporary building design and it’s often the less flashy, established schools that are the most respected within the education arena. Nevertheless 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 and gizmos or modern interior design.

4. Does the head teacher, or your guide, know the students’ names?

The dynamics of a school can very much depend on how it is run, and whether the senior teaching staff show an interest in the children as individuals. Ask yourself; does the head teacher interact with the students and, particularly in primary schools, address the children by name, when walking about the school? Kay, a teacher at a British School in Dubai said, “The sign of a good school is that it cares personally about each individual student rather than its overall results. A head teacher is responsible for setting this standard, knowing children by name and showing an interest during assemblies. This is a major part of their job.”

5. What does your child think?

Children are pretty instinctive creatures, so if your child likes the school, feels comfortable and happy during the visit, then it probably is the right one for them. While you shouldn’t allow your child to have the casting vote, take their opinions and feelings into account before making your decision.

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

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