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    How to Find a Great School: 5 Positive Things to Look Out for on a School Tour

    When looking for a new school for your child, research is vital. Much of this research can be done from the comfort of home. On the web, it is straightforward enough to find information on the curriculum, examination results, a school’s ethos and mission statement, and much more.

    If you’ve done your homework and the school seems like a good fit for your child, then it’s time for the all-important visit.

    Visiting the school itself is absolutely vital: 

    An impressive website showing off dazzling exam records is one thing, but what is even more important is the feel of the school. This cannot be deciphered online. Only by seeing the school, the staff and the pupils in action, will you have a sense of whether your child will be happy and successful there. 

    Most schools hold regular opportunities for prospective parents and pupils to visit. These may be in the form of public open mornings or evenings, where anybody with an interest in the school may attend. Some schools prefer to operate private tours for small groups during a regular school day. This may be your only option if you are intending to apply outside the normal application window. 

    Often, older pupils will guide you around the school. Ideally, you should have the opportunity to talk to senior staff, teaching staff and pupils. This will give you the biggest, most honest picture of how great the school is. 

    Whatever form your visit takes, it’s worth bearing in mind that the school will want you to see it at its very best. For this reason, it’s always worth delving a little deeper. You should have a range of questions prepared, and keep your eyes peeled for the small details.

    How to Find a Great School: 5 Positive Things to Look Out for on a School Tour

     Here are 5 positive signs to look out for when you’re looking for a truly great school:  

    1.   Universal Pride:

    The headteacher certainly seems proud of their school; its results, its ethos and its environment. However, is this pride echoed by everybody else? Look for small signs that all staff and pupils care equally as much for their school. 

    This might all boil down to:

    Every single pupil looking neat and tidy in their uniforms

    Staff seemingly happy and proud to be part of the team

    Delicious, nutritious lunches

    A clean and tidy building

    Fully staffed and equipped learning facilities

    There should be a general atmosphere of warmth and respect emanating from all. Everything needs to be clean and have its own place, even down to the pupil toilets. 

    2.   Pupils at the Centre of the Community:

    In a school community, every single pupil should be nurtured and valued if they are to reach their potential. Look for signs that the pupils are at the heart of everything the school does.

    Displays of pupil work are a good place to start. Are they carefully and lovingly presented on display boards? This is a sign that student contributions are well-valued

    Another sign may be an active student council, where pupils are given a strong voice and a say in how the school can work better for them. Having a chance to talk to pupils that are on the council can be helpful because they can reflect on how valued they feel.

    If you are able to witness teaching staff in action, pay close attention. Looking for small signs in pupil staff interactions can be useful. Do staff and pupils seem to have a good, mutually respectful rapport?

    3.   Strong Extra-Curricular Programme:

    Extra-curricular enrichment programs are worth scrutinising. Your child may not wish to join the arts club, robotics club or play extra sports just now, but still pay attention.

    Firstly, lots of extra-curricular clubs are a sign of passionate, dedicated teachers who will inspire fresh enthusiasm and new interests in their classroom.

    Secondly, they’re a further sign that pupils are at the heart of the school, and that teaching staff are willing to give pupils their extra time.

    4.   A Thorough, Consistent Behaviour Policy:

    No school is without occasional problematic behaviour. A good school, however, will have a solid, consistent behaviour policy that encourages discipline and manages misbehaviour well.

    A school’s behaviour policy is usually available on its website. Try to read through before visiting the school. In a good school, all staff and pupils will have a clear understanding of rewards or consequences for positive or negative behaviour

    While you’re on the tour, if possible, it is worth asking pupils about the behaviour policy. Do the pupils feel rewarded for being disciplined? What happens if a negative incident occurs? Is what they say reflective of the policy? 

    5.   An Honest Approach:

    Finally, and most importantly, no school is perfect. 

    A headteacher will be keen for prospective parents to know about the school’s achievements. However, a good headteacher will also be constantly striving for their school to be even better, no matter what they have already achieved. Therefore, listen out for a headteacher who is happy to speak about where the school can improve and what they are doing to move forward in these areas.

    If you’ve been impressed by a school’s thorough, consistent approach as well as its track record, and you are sure that your child can be a valued member of the community there, then you have found a great school in which your child can thrive.

    Author bio: Sybil AbouRahal-Jones who is the Marketing and Communications Manager at The English College in Dubai. She also majored in Graphic Design & 20 years  of experience in Graphic Designing, Marketing, Branding, and Communications. Especially her role is to set the MarCom strategy for both primary & secondary schools, and also implement branding, graphic design, internal & external communications and digital marketing.

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