Secondary school visits
It's school visit time. If you compare the same kinds of things every time you make a visit, you'll soon be thinking like an expert.
Here are our 10 top things to look for.
- Note who meets and greets you. Are there senior students proudly on duty to help you or a scruffy notice saying 'Reception this way' ?
- Look at the display in the corridors. Is it 'real', celebratory, informative and interactive? Does it ask questions of the viewer? Is it recent? Does it draw in students to be part of a community, to think about big issues, to form values and opinions? Is it there for the benefit of prospective parents or visitors? Or is it out of date, out of touch and there to cover wall space?
- Look for the Head's office. It should be visible and suggest a leader who is out and about and a role model. If it's tucked away, look for signs that the Head is an active leader. Ask students how often the Head does assembly, walks around the school, meets students informally during the day? Ask teachers the same questions.
- Go into classrooms for a range of subjects. Look at how the desks or tables are arranged. Rows suggest old- fashioned teaching where students interact only with the teacher and not with one another as learners.
- Stand where a student might sit and look at room from a student's perspective. Can you see display so that you learn from the walls? Are there lots of well-organised resources visible or is there is a mess of torn books and piles of unattended paperwork on surfaces?
- Seek out the toilets. Are they well- kept, accessible, offering some privacy or miserable places to be avoided?
- Watch for signs of clubs and activities held at lunchtime and after school. Is there an obvious life in this school or is it back on the bus and home at the end of the day?
- Listen for the way teachers talk to students and to one another. Are they patronising and brusque or is there a warmth and mutual respect?
- Look at where students eat their lunch. Is it ordered and welcoming? Can they sit safely and eat socially or is it a queue in the cold then a quick in and out with plastic cutlery.
- Ask existing students questions. And then use the same questions everywhere you visit and compare the answers. You'll be amazed at what you learn.
Use the same comparisons everywhere you visit and you'll soon find yourself becoming informed and confident.