Choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important parenting challenges.

If you’re thinking about independent education, then you do have the option to look at schools based on what you feel will suit your child rather than just catchment area.

However, you may need to think about registering at schools much earlier than you would if applying for a state school place, as places are limited and most schools will have waiting lists.

Open Days are often the best way to get an insight into the way a school works. Most independent schools will hold at least two throughout the academic year.

They will give you a chance to see the school in action, to check out its facilities and offer you the perfect opportunity to speak to the teachers, pupils and headteacher.

Before Open Day
• Ask for the school’s prospectus to be sent to you and have a look at their recent inspection report and academic results.
• Chat to any current parents. Find out their likes and dislikes.
• Visit the school’s website and maybe follow them on twitter and like their page on Facebook – this will give you a great idea of the day-to-day happenings at the school.

On The Day Itself
• If you can, take your child along to the Open Day. It will be a good indicator to watch the pupils and staff interact with you and your child and to gauge your child’s reaction to both.
• Listen to the headteacher’s speech – you’ll learn about the school’s values and you should be able to get an idea of the school’s academic focus and pastoral ethos.
• If the pupils are not acting as tour guides, make sure you speak to as many of them as possible. Talking to the admissions and teaching staff is important to get facts, but speaking to pupils will help you to gain more of an insight into the school.

Good questions to ask the pupils
• What do you like most about your school?
• How easy was it to make friends?
• How easy is it to join in extra-curricular groups?
• What does the school do to help you if you have any concerns?
• What options are there for lunch?
• What one thing would you change about the school?

Good questions to ask the teachers / headteacher
• Why did you choose to teach at this school?
• How long have you worked here?
• How do you settle new children in to school life?
• What is expected of my child with regard to homework?
• Do you offer wrap-around care?
• What school trips are available?
• How many pupils go on to their next school of choice?

After Open Day
• Do follow up with any questions after the Open Day
• If necessary arrange for a personal visit before making a final decision

Article by Andrea Ventress, Marketing Assitant at The Beacon School, Chesham Bois, Amersham

To find out when the next open days are taking place see our guide, SCHOOLS OPEN DAYS 2018.