Before or after visiting a campus, read our independent review of the school by searching here.
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.
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.
Read on for WhichSchoolAdvisor's advice on what to look for and what to ask during that all-important school visit.
• 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?
• 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?
• 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?
• 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?
• 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?
• 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?
• How far away is the school from your home?
• How do children travel to school? Is there a bus service?
• Is there adequate parking?
• 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.
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.