Encourage families to pick your school with this advice from Bernadette John, director at The Good Schools Guide
One unimpressed parent said, “One school let parents wander around as they pleased. Staff were dotted around, but they were cornered by a few so most people didn’t get to speak to anyone. It was chaos. Corridors were blocked, and nobody knew where they were going.” Parents want to feel their child will be in safe hands. They prefer an organised day, with a chance to see the school operating as usual, and plenty of time to quiz key staff.
Choosing a school is an immense decision, and parents need to see that a school takes this seriously – which means the head taking a big part in the day. “For group tours it has worked best when the head has taken on the job – it’s good to meet the person running the show,” a parent told us. The head needs to convey the ethos of the school, and what makes you different. Parents have been left cold by tours taken by a receptionist, or pupils alone.
Make the place presentable. Chaos and grubbiness will strike you off, and parents despise litter. “Definite put-offs were undefined areas, dumping grounds and parts of the school that looked uncared for,” said a parent. But don’t make it too sterile – creative mess is charming.
Get these wrong and parents won’t bother attending your open day. An unfriendly response to telephone enquiries is enough to put people off before they’ve even visited, and admin failures will sow doubt about your competence. A website which lacks basic information about the head, catchment areas, special needs, open days and so on will give a poor impression. And make sure it’s up to date (not displaying leavers’ destinations and school results from three years ago, and nine-month-old newsletters).
Parents like it when schools take an interest in their child. Laying on activities for kids while parents have a Q&A session with the head and EY teacher is a winner.
As one parent told us during our research, “Only being shown Early Years, and not the whole school, was massively annoying”. And that means seeing the pupils too – parents complain about visits when all the kids are out on a trip.
Display work on the walls, in exercise books and on computers. But don’t just put out the star pupils’ work, which suggests the others never get a look in. Also put up pictures of trips and exciting extra-curricular events.