The best way to get a feel for a school is to pay it a visit. Websites and prospectuses are well and good and in many cases have to suffice, but if you have a chance to visit, then snap it up. To get the best value out of your trip these are the top 10 things you should be looking out for.
1. Do the children look happy and engaged? How are children responding in class – do they look happy, are they engaged in the activity, how do they react to teachers and fellow pupils?
2. Talk to the teachers and ask them real questions – taking time to research the right school and education for your child is not the moment to hold back on difficult questions. Ask real questions to teachers such as what is the staff turnover rate? Would you send your child to this school?
3. Take time to engage with the pupils – speaking to teachers is important, but what you really want to know in choosing a school for your child, is what experience their peers are having. Take some time to talk to the pupils, ask them what their favourite (and not so favourite!) things about the school are.
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4. Ask about the leadership in the school – how long has the Principal or Head been there, what was their previous experience, how involved are they in the day to day activities and how accessible are they to parents?
5. Find out about the pastoral systems in place – Having lots of children together in one environment can be a dynamic and exciting place to be, but it can also be overwhelming for some kids and friendship issues through the teenage years can present challenges. Are there plenty of adults readily available to offer children support when the going gets tough?
6. Explore the extra-curricular environment – while academic success is a key factor in choosing a school, extra-curricular activities are just as important in helping your child to become as well rounded as possible. If you child is a budding sports star, find out about the range of sports on offer, and how much time is spent on physical activity. If your child prefers the arts, understand the facilities that are on offer and how children are encouraged to explore their creative side.
7. What are the facilities like? Most schools out here have stunning facilities but parents should not be overwhelmed by this – the most important thing is what goes on inside these facilities not how shiny and new they are.
8. Speak to other parents – no one will be able to give you better insight and answer your questions as honestly as parents who currently have children in the school. Ask around, the chances are if you’re looking into a particular school, that you or some of your friends know parents with children there. And ask them everything and anything.
9. School fees – Make sure you find out what is included in the fees. Several of the new schools in Dubai are offering an all inclusive fee which covers extra curricular activities, outing and school uniform and others are offering a discount for founding families which can last for up to 4 years. Shop around for different price points for school fees and compare what you get for your money.
10. Are the school’s values a good fit? The key thing is making sure that the values of the school are ones that you and your family can subscribe too and that these values are clearly articulated and demonstrated – that they are not just a posted on the wall.