Choosing a School in the UK: School Visits

                                                               By: Ann Dinsdale, GMS,


*This article is the fourth part of an 8 part series on the UK schooling system.  See the foot of this article for links to the other 7 parts.*

Best School in the UK

It’s important that you plan visits to several schools once you shortlist the top schools on your list.  

What are the top questions or things to consider when it comes to a UK school visit?

Does the school have an official open day?

Most schools (of all types) hold official ‘open days’ twice a year for parents and potential students to attend.  These are typically in the Spring and Autumn but you can schedule a visit outside of these days as well.  We’d actually recommend that you complete a visit outside of the open days to get a true feel for the school – bear in mind this is as good as the school ever looks!

Do you feel welcomed?

Do the children give the impression of being happy and loving every brick of their school?  Talk to the office staff and the head's PA and find out how nice they are.  It says something about the school, and they are the people you'll talk to on a day-to-day basis about things like dinner money, school trips etc.  Does the school hold events/classes that involve people outside the school?  A successful school is integrated with the community around it.

Are the staff friendly, confident and happy?

Just like in the States, it’s vital that the staff that will be working directly with your children come across as friendly and confident in their roles.  We’d recommend asking the teachers: would you send your own child to this school? They’re unlikely to say ‘No’, but watch their reaction when they reply.  Ask about the rates of staff sickness and turnover.  Ask how many are on long-term sickness.  Find out if teachers are covering lots of lessons.  A good indicator is the range of clubs and activities on offer outside the classroom.  If teachers care, and are passionate about their subject, they will find ways to offer enrichment.

Are school resources well treated and respected?

Look carefully to see if there is graffiti on the desks and the general state of the buildings.  Does the furniture look like it's been treated badly? Look at the walls: are they full of colourful children's work?  This is a sign that pupils' efforts are really valued.  Visit the students' toilets – the state of them shows how much the school really cares about the kids.

What should you ask the headteacher?

Find out what the headteacher stands for/believes in.  Check out how staff talk about their values.  It’s also important to know about how long they’ve been in their post and what staff turnover looks like.  If more than a third of the teachers are leaving, alarm bells should be going off – it could mean an unhappy atmosphere.  Also ask if he/she knows the name of every child to get an idea for their day to day involvement.

There are also some great resources on the Department for Education’s website for you to utilize and you can also review inspection reports by Ofsted or the Independent Schools Inspectorate

It’s always important to plan your move overseas carefully, especially if you have children.  There are many things you need to cover at both ends of the move.  People moving abroad make big mistakes by failing to get good, independent advice and support.

As international relocation specialists, the experts at Saunders 1865 – The VIP Relocation Company – can help you avoid making the common mistakes and we can make sure you accomplish everything that needs to be done around:

  • Helping parents navigate the complex education systems
  • Relieving parents’ worries about finding the right schools & securing places
  • Providing a quick & efficient service that saves time & provides independent, objective advice

Why not arrange a free consultation with one of our relocation experts today?  Just message us using this Contact Form