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Open days 2019: how to make the most of visiting a potential school or college

PUBLISHED: 13:27 20 September 2019

Make sure to get a complete tour of any school you're considering for your child. Picture: Getty Images

Make sure to get a complete tour of any school you're considering for your child. Picture: Getty Images

This image is Copyright of Dean Hindmarch

Open days are a vital chance for you and your child to get an insight into potential schools and colleges. Knowing how to approach them can be overwhelming, so we've asked the experts for their advice on getting the most out of an open day.

An open day allows you to see a school’s facilities first-hand. Picture: College of West Anglia/Paul TibbsAn open day allows you to see a school’s facilities first-hand. Picture: College of West Anglia/Paul Tibbs

You wouldn't buy a car without first giving it a test drive. You wouldn't buy a house without first giving it an inspection. So, it stands to reason, that you wouldn't send your child to school you've not thoroughly vetted beforehand either.

Open days are a valuable opportunity for you to ensure that a school is right for your family, so it's important to make the most of them - and who better to tell us how to do that than the schools themselves...

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ATTEND AN OPEN DAY?

"Open days are a great opportunity to see the college/school for yourself and get a feel for what it would be like to study there. You can take a tour of the campus, meet fellow students you may be studying with, speak with curriculum and support staff who can ask answer questions about the courses, qualifications, support, finance or transport."

Sara Rushworth, head of marketing at Easton and Otley College

"Before deciding where you're going to be studying, it's important to make sure you're going in to an environment that works best for you."

Roger Harris, head teacher at Long Stratton High School

Be on the look out for examples of work done by current pupils at an open day. Picture: Long Stratton High SchoolBe on the look out for examples of work done by current pupils at an open day. Picture: Long Stratton High School

"Even if a student has no idea as to what career path they would like to follow, it is a good idea for them to find out what different institutions (i.e. sixth forms and colleges) are able to offer."

Grace Jones, events coordinator at College of West Anglia

"Going to a College Open Evening is really useful so you can get a feel for a college, not only the academic courses offered but also the support that you will receive."

Helen McGuinness, College Director

SHOULD YOU PLAN WHAT YOU WANT TO ASK BEFOREHAND?

"Determining the questions you want to ask beforehand can help you to ensure that the course is the right fit for you, your skills and needs in the future. Ask yourself, what do I want out of this course? Will I enjoy studying this subject? How will this help me to achieve my future goals?

"If you've already decided on the course that's right for you, questions of transport to and from college, levels of support available and questions regarding the facilities on offer could help you to reach a decision about the school or college you'd like to be a part of."

Meeting the teachers at a school can give you a feel for the environment - and never be afraid to ask questions. Picture: Getty ImagesMeeting the teachers at a school can give you a feel for the environment - and never be afraid to ask questions. Picture: Getty Images

Grace Jones, events coordinator at College of West Anglia

"It's a good idea to look over course information beforehand and come prepared with any questions you may have on your course. If you are deciding between a couple of courses, it will be helpful to speak to tutors from both courses who will be able to advise which one is most suitable for you."

Phoebe Maxwell, marketing and PR manager at Access Creative College

WHICH MEMBERS OF STAFF SHOULD YOU AIM TO TALK TO?

"You want to speak to a wide range of staff and get a broad overview of the school both academically and pastorally."

Roger Harris, head teacher at Long Stratton High School

"The course tutors are the best people to speak to for course related queries. There's normally always a team to provide information on support and bursaries and staff who are able to assist if you need help with the application process."

Phoebe Maxwell, marketing and PR manager at Access Creative College

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO SPEAK TO CURRENT STUDENT AS WELL AS TEACHERS?

"Students will be able to give you a real flavour of what everyday life is like for the people who are part of the college, as well as providing information about the lessons, work and assignments, and absorbing the college environment outside of the classroom."

Grace Jones, events coordinator at College of West Anglia

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"Past and present students can really let you know what it is like to study at a school, the highs, the lows and how you will be supported. Asking students will make you feel confident that you are fully informed before making your final choice."

Helen McGuinness, college director

WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK OUT FOR ON A TOUR OF A SCHOOL?

"Take a look at the facilities that you will use for your course but also those on offer for other courses too as you may want to use these in your free time. It's important to look at the classrooms that you'll be working in and also spaces like the common room, study areas and places where you can work and relax outside of lessons."

Phoebe Maxwell, marketing and PR manager at Access Creative College

"Make sure to look at work displayed around the school, if no pupils work is on display then ask to see some."

Roger Harris, head teacher at Long Stratton High School

WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO GAIN AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE SCHOOL'S ETHOS AT AN OPEN DAY?

"The best way to find out about an institution's ethos is simply to visit it and speak with the staff and current students. Attending an open day will give you a good understanding of a school's culture."

Sara Rushworth, head of marketing at Easton and Otley College

"Speaking to staff and the student ambassadors is the best way to gain an understanding of the culture at a college. Asking the staff about any extra opportunities available will give you a further feel for facilities on offer."

Phoebe Maxwell, marketing and PR manager at Access Creative College

WHY IS LEARING ABOUT A SCHOOL'S PASTORAL CARE IMPORTANT?

"It's important to know that your child is going to be challenged to do well academically but also supported pastorally. One side does not work without the other."

Roger Harris, head teacher at Long Stratton High School

If you ever need extra support at college, whether it's with a piece of work or if you're feeling overwhelmed and need a space to unwind, it's important to know that there is a dedicated team there to help you and a place for you to do this.

Phoebe Maxwell, marketing and PR manager at Access Creative College

IS YOUR SCHOOL DOING ANYTHING UNIQUE AT YOUR OPEN DAY?

"We try and make our Open Days are interactive as possible - this may be music performances, students working in studios or demonstrating live sound engineering skills they have learnt on their course."

Phoebe Maxwell, marketing and PR manager at Access Creative College

WHAT IF I STILL HAVE MORE QUESTIONS AFTER AN OPEN DAY?

"Try to get all your questions asked at the time. If you have a specific question at a later date, ensure they go to the right person. So if you have a question specifically about PE provision, contact the head of PE."

Roger Harris, head teacher at Long Stratton High School

"Always ask! We encourage students to contact us via phone, email and to attend as many of our applicant events as possible"

Helen McGuinness, college director

"We are always happy to arrange one to one visits with students if they have more questions or would like to take another look around the college. Alternatively, you can call our office or head to our website."

Phoebe Maxwell, marketing and PR manager at Access Creative College

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