What schools say: 1. Visiting the school
Visiting a school is the crucial step in making your choice, and it’s something schools welcome and encourage. All schools make the time to meet new families, and take an active approach to these visits. But what can you expect to happen when you go in to a school? What are the typical procedures, and how do schools recommend that you should think about the important opportunity that a visit provides? We asked our member schools to put us in the picture.
First of all, as a parent what will you experience on a visit? How wide-ranging are the visits and what do they usually include?
The answer here is really: anything and everything. Whatever questions you have, whatever it is that you want to see, schools will be keen to help. Here’s what Uptown School in Dubai has to say, and it’s typical of the enthusiasm that schools show for these visits:
‘During the school tour, you can see our extensive facilities, view classes in action and meet and interact with some of our students who are bursting to tell visitors about all the amazing learning experiences that they enjoy, and will leave you marvelling at their self-confidence.’
KSI Montenegro told us that parents visiting the school ‘will hear all about the school’s history, the programmes that the school follows, its admissions procedures, the fees and anything else they might need to know’ – there’s no limit to the questions you can ask, or the information schools will be delighted to pour out!
And Dollar school in the UK told us that ‘parents are welcome to visit the school at any point in the year and are encouraged, where possible, to visit with their child. The visit is arranged by the Admissions Department and consists of a school tour with time spent in any area of the school that is of particular interest.’
So you should approach these visits as opportunities to find out about absolutely anything that interests you. Schools will be only too happy to help.
Who runs these visits? This varies from school to school, but most places involve a range of staff members, and students as well…
Often the admissions team will welcome new visitors to the school. This is what Sotogrande International School in Spain, told us: ‘When new families come to visit Sotogrande they are initially welcomed by our admissions team, who show them around the school and give them the opportunity to see classes in action, as well as seeing our excellent facilities.’
At The International School @ ParkCity, Kuala Lumpur, ‘when parents visit us they will first of all be guided by our admissions staff on the enrolment process,’ and at the International School of Hamburg, the Admissions officer ‘introduces parents to the school by giving them a tour, showing them our facilities, classrooms, libraries, cafeteria, and more. She answers any questions parents may have.’
Tanglin Trust School in Singapore told us that ‘we conduct individual appointments where a member of our Admissions Team will be happy to take you on a personalised tour of the school, answer any of your questions and outline the admissions process.’
"So you should approach these visits as opportunities to find out about absolutely anything that interests you. Schools will be only too happy to help..."
Last of all, St. John's International School, in Waterloo, Belgium, told Winter’s ‘when prospective parents visit the school, they start with a meeting with our admissions team in order for us to get to know the children’s preferences, personalities and needs. We then move to a tour of the school, where parents can go into classrooms to speak to teachers and students…’
Then you can expect to meet everyone from the Head, or the Head of that section of the school, to the students themselves…
The English International School, Moscow East, told us that ‘normally all prospective parent visits are organised to meet with the Principal so there is always that all-important first contact, which we hope will show parents how much we value getting it right from the very beginning. The Principal will introduce the school to the parents in an informal Q and A meeting, record all the necessary details about the children and give a conducted tour of the campus.’
At The Lady Elizabeth School in Alicante, Spain, ‘every family will have a meeting with the Headmaster and key members of the Senior Leadership Team.’ This is very typical of school visits – you can expect to have the opportunity to meet the Head and other senior teachers at many schools. But what about meeting some of the students themselves?
If you visit the senior school at Repton, Dubai, then ‘a senior pupil will conduct the tour, giving parents a unique perspective and insight into life at Repton.’ And at Dollar school in the UK, ‘the school tour is led by current pupils, and includes the opportunity to speak with class teachers, sports coaches and music tutors.’
Often visits will begin with a conversation where you’ll get the chance to explore all the things that matter to you most.
The British International School of Kuala Lumpur said this to Winter’s: ‘When parents visit the school they’re greeted by a member of our admissions team, and we typically grab a seat with them, and try to get to know the family a bit. We try to engage the children as well – and try to involve them throughout all the conversations. We ask questions to gauge their needs, interests, and priorities, and then customise their tour accordingly.’
This is what The English International School, Moscow South-West, told us about the discussion new parents have with the school principal when they arrive: ‘We ask parents what they’re looking for in a school, and if their child has any particular needs that the school should be aware of. If Moscow South-West can provide for the child’s needs, the conversation proceeds along the lines of an introduction to what the school can do and the Principal answers questions parents have about the school, and in particular about their child’s potential class. If it seems that the school cannot meet the needs of the child, the Principal is very clear about the concerns he has and will, where possible, recommend alternatives.’
And at KIS International School in Bangkok, visits always get off to an informal start: ‘We usually have a chat in the admissions office first over a cup of coffee, so we get to know each other, and talk about the school and its programmes. Then someone from the admissions office will take the family around to see the school facilities and the classrooms…’
What will you get to see? You can expect visits to incorporate all aspects of school life…
This is what UWCSEA in Singapore had to tell us: ‘Campus visits are a great way to find out more about UWCSEA and the unique characteristics of each campus. Each tour is guided by our experienced admission officers who will be able to answer any questions you may have. We visit the classrooms and see students in action, and tailor the visit to the age group and interests of the family.’
"Schools want parents and their children to experience as much as they can on these visits..."
At Yew Chung International School in Hong Kong, ‘your bespoke visit will incorporate all aspects of YCIS school life to help parents make an informed decision, and will include a campus tour when parents can meet staff and students.’ This gives you a good idea of the sorts of experiences most school visits will give you, and the English International School, Moscow South-West, said this to Winter’s about the scope of their tours: ‘Visits to classrooms and specialist facilities such as the canteen and hall are included before returning to the Principal’s office to answer any final questions and outline the next steps…’
Schools want parents and their children to experience as much as they can on these visits. This enthusiasm shines through in the answer The Children's Garden Kindergarten, in Dubai, gave to our question about the scope and value of these visits: ‘Parents receive a warm welcome from our team and are invited to take a guided tour of the school to look at our wonderful educational facilities, and see our teachers and children engaged in their daily routines and activities. We are very proud of the quality of education we provide for our students and of the beautiful work displayed throughout the school, made by our children, aged two to six years old.’
This is typical of the spirit in which schools around the world approach visits by new families.
Nothing beats the experience of the classroom itself…
Cranleigh School in Abu Dhabi told us that ‘our tours actively encourage parents to take a look inside classrooms in order to witness our teaching at first hand.’
The British International School of Kuala Lumpur said: ‘wherever we can, we step into a live class so that parents and children can get a true idea of what a typical class will feel like.’
At The British School in Tokyo ‘you will go into classrooms and see the curriculum in action. You will see school books and class projects, examples of writing and maths work through the year groups in the Primary School, as well as all the facilities on each school site…’
And at Al-Mizhar American Academy in Dubai ‘if it’s a normal school day, families will be introduced to class and subject teachers to give them a better insight into what happens inside the classroom, and they will see the activities taking place at the time. If the visiting student is into sports, then the tour will include the gym, pool and pitch area, and they will meet the PE teachers.'
How does a visit usually finish? What can you expect to happen at the end?
This is what the British International School, Kuala Lumpur, had to say: ‘We close the tour by sitting down with the family to answer any questions they may have, discuss next steps (if they are interested in progressing), and provide them with further reading to take home about the school (i.e. booklets, school calendar, bus routes, fees etc.)…’
You can often expect to be given information packs to take away with you. At The Lady Elizabeth School in Spain, ‘families receive a prospectus and recent yearbook,’ and at The British School of Vila-real, also in Spain, at the end of a visit to the school ‘parents receive an information pack provided by the Head of Admissions which includes an application form.’
It doesn’t end with the visit. Many schools encourage you to take advantage of ‘taster days’ and other ways to see how your child likes the school…
At The Lady Elizabeth School every family ‘is offered the opportunity for their children to enjoy a taster day in the school.’ St Francis' College, in the UK, also told Winter’s that ‘potential students are invited to come and spend a taster day and/or night, to really get to know us.’ And at Dollar school, also in the UK, ‘overnight taster sessions can be arranged for prospective boarders to allow them to experience school life.’
So the visit is just the start – opportunities like this allow you to find out a lot more.
The same message is repeated by the English International School, Moscow South-West: ‘for those who want to discover more, it’s possible to have a taster morning, or day, where children (and depending on their age, their parents too) can join a class to see what the school is really like.’
St. John's International School in Belgium told us that ‘families are welcome to come back for a second visit or have their child or children spend half a day at school to see how they like it.’ And last of all, Sotogrande school said to Winter’s that ‘children are encouraged to join their prospective class for the day and experience school life first hand.’
Top image courtesy of The Children's Garden Kindergarten Barsha, Dubai
Other images courtesy of the following Winter's schools: