Open Day visits: What to look for on a school tour

Visiting a school’s Open Day and touring will allow you to see a school in action and give you the opportunity to experience it for yourself. There is much to learn and see, it’s hard to know what to look for on a school tour that will help you make that final decision. 

Most of the research can be done from the comfort of your own home, but the intangible qualities such as atmosphere, connection and ‘the feeling’ need to experienced first hand. Can you picture your son at this school?

Here’s what to look for on a school tour:

That feeling

More often than not, we know straight away if something feels right; choosing a school for your son is similar. School websites can give the impression that all schools are somewhat the same, but it’s the feeling you get once you’re on the school grounds, interacting with people and seeing how staff and students engage with each other that provides a sense of difference.

When joining a school tour, take your son with you. What may feel right for you, may not feel right for him. Encourage him to ask the staff and students questions to help him imagine what his own experience might be like. If you or your son feel undecided, extend your questions to the wider school community with children at the school. Always take a school tour at another school to compare the atmosphere.  

Observe relationships

You might have seen photos on the school website of happy students and engaging teachers, but is this the reality? Talk to as many people as you can on a tour to get a sense of what the school community is like — from the receptionist who welcomes you, to the students and staff taking part in the tour. Ask the students about their experiences. How do they find the school, the teachers and the programs? What was it like for them when they started at the school?

Peer into the classrooms and observe students at work. Do they appear engaged, happy, comfortable in their surroundings? Ask staff about how long they have been at the school, what the students are like and the school’s areas of strength. Take note of staff and student interaction in class and around the campus. Listen closely to the Principal or staff member leading the tour to learn about the school’s philosophy and values.

Does the reality match the website?

Opting for a private education is a costly undertaking. If you are paying high fees then there is an expectation that the campus and its facilities will be of a certain standard. The school tour provides yet another opportunity to see if the photos match the reality. Your expectations will also depend on your son’s interests.

You can gather a sense of the building age and standard of facilities, how these have been maintained, any future works, and how the grounds are cared for. Of course, the school will naturally be looking at its best for a tour, but don’t be afraid to ask to see specific areas if your son has a particular interest, such as sports.

Asking the right questions

This is your opportunity to get any questions answered. Every boy is different and you have specific needs and wants for your son. If you have broader questions about the school culture or pastoral care system, you might want to direct these to the Principal or senior staff member leading the tour. If you have more specific questions about a particular program, activity or interest, this could be the perfect opportunity to speak with a staff member who works in that area.

Don’t be shy and let your tour guide know. If you don’t get the answer on the day, make sure you are put in contact with the best person at the school who can help you. By asking plenty of questions, as well as listening to the responses of others, you will leave with a greater sense of whether the school can meet your son’s needs.

Experiencing what the school offers for yourself is crucial. Be sure to involve your son and visit more than one Open Day so you can compare your findings and feelings. If you would like to experience a day in the life of a Christ Church Grammar School student, please join us at one of our upcoming tours.

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