EDUCATION: The KEY questions to ask at a school open day

18 April 2016
Reading time2 mins

School open days provide a wonderful opportunity to see your child’s potential new school in action, so what should you be asking?

Choosing a school is a BIG deal, so attending a school open day is often a good idea. You’ll have the chance to explore the grounds, visit some classrooms and talk to staff about everything the school has to offer. You might even hear a music recital or get involved in some hands-on workshops. In fact, a school open day can be a great day out!

It’s useful to remember, however, that every school is a business. This means that you are essentially a potential client and an open day is a marketing opportunity. It’s only natural that a school will put its best foot forward and show you its ‘highlights reel’.

In order to decide whether this is really the right school for you and your child, it’s handy to prepare some questions in advance to help you cut through the spin.

1. Questions about life in the classroom

Schools are transparent about the subjects they teach. They must adhere to the Australian Curriculum, for starters, and most will happily provide a handbook or online guide to subject offerings.

What’s not covered in the handbook, though, is the school’s day-to-day approach to these subjects and the technologies they have at their disposal.

At your open day therefore, ask about the school’s teaching philosophy, discipline processes and facilities.

  • What is the experience level of my child’s potential teacher or the specialist teachers at your school?
  • How many computers are available to children, or will we need to provide one?
  • How much homework will my child need to complete each night or per subject?
  • What options do you offer for children who need learning support or extension?
  • Are girls and boys equally encouraged across all subjects, e.g. in science, home economics or industry placements?

2. Questions about life outside the classroom

School is about much more than reading, writing and arithmetic. Your child’s social life, health and wellbeing and creative outlets will also be important.

  • What daily activities do you offer outside of the school curriculum? Sports? Music? Social clubs?
  • Can we see the playgrounds, eating areas, toilets or club rooms?
  • Is there a student counselling service, chaplaincy, time out space or other support for children who are struggling?
  • If this is a religious school, will my family be expected to participate in church or other outside commitments?
  • Can parents get involved in school life through volunteering, such as board membership or P & C?

3. Questions about paperwork and protocol

Don’t be afraid to visit the school office and talk to finance and administration staff, too.

  • What fees will we need to pay, in addition to school fees? For example, is there a book or IT levy?
  • How many students are in the school? How big are class sizes?
  • What are the future building or expansion plans for the school. How big will it be in five years’ time?
  • Tell me about last year’s outcomes for seniors?
  • What public transport arrangements are available to my child? Are train or bus stations supervised?

Probably more important that any of this, however, is to ask yourself one big question:

Do the kids at this school look happy?

If you see evidence of smiling, engaged children who are comfortable interacting with staff and excited to show you their latest projects, you’re off to a great start.

Have you decided on your child’s school yet?

For more help choosing a school, download our comprehensive all-inclusive EDUCATION GUIDE 2016.

Download our Open Day Questions Checklist.

Written by

Lara Cain Gray

Lara Cain Gray is a freelance writer, editor and blogger. Based in Brisbane, her office is whichever nearby café serves a decent long black with free wifi. Her professional background includes university research and museum curatorship. She continues to dabble in academia in her spare time, which is rare now that she’s also a mum of three quirky little humans. She blogs about her passions – books, the arts and family - at ThisCharmingMum.com

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