Autumn open days are in mid swing and could not be more important for parents intent on the task of sifting fact from fiction, inspecting facilities, quizzing staff and trying to distill the atmosphere of a school in answer to the question 'is this the right school for my child?'. If we were to jot down a few tweaks for a new Head planning an open day as prospective parents, we might suggest:
- The Head's Speech - short and snappy but full of vision, confidence and sparkle. We need to believe in your broad shoulders, want to work with you ourselves and believe our 11 year old could confide in you. If you can be funny and refreshingly honest and when we meet you give us 100 per cent of your attention despite the 3 million things on your to do list, you might just be THE ONE.
Happy tour guides (yes, it's a Saturday, but...). We don’t need our young guides to know everything about the school, but we like them to be keen to find out on our behalf and to be proud of the school they’re showing to us. We like year 9's the best – they are old hands, but still a little unpolished. Please, no year 7's.
Please do sell your school to us. Just because it’s a popular school, don’t rest on your laurels. We want you to want us too.
A full cohort of staff on hand for a chat. The more the merrier. We don’t want to wait in a queue to meet the representative maths teacher. Where are the rest and why are they hidden away? Are they really all men with beards, surely not.
It's all a bit of a bore for the younger siblings but sometimes they have to tag along - they'd love to be thought of and included in a few of the tempting looking activities that are going on.
Day-glo: we got up early on a weekend and are feeling a bit frazzled. Parking attendants waving us in are most welcome. We know you might like to be discreet but signs from miles away are a relief too.
Please do send us straight off on a tour or give us something to do whilst we wait for the Head's talk, so that we're not left eyeing up the other parents surreptitiously or making awkward small talk with ourselves. We're not ridiculously hard to please, but we are quite fond of the odd harpist, art displays or sixth formers to chat to.
We love to see busy, bright music wings with packed “what’s on” boards and to see musicians playing, singing, improvising, whatever their thing is, giving us a taste of the acoustics and their enthusiasms.
Lunches - we'd like to see them, but forgive us if we don't necessarily want to sit down for lunch and eat them - with two schools per day to see on three subsequent Saturdays we can't afford the time or the weight gain.
Please invite us back soon! We will try very hard to take it all in, but we may need a second look.
How are you getting on with Open Days? Did you miss an important one, or don't know where to start? Or, can't choose between two great contenders? Just get in touch below, these are the kinds of dilemmas we encounter every day and we are ready to listen and advise.