Without leaving your desk, what to know before that virtual tour

Remote tours on screen
Arabella Davies

Wave a temporary farewell to senior school open days and say hello to remotely selecting your child’s next school from the comfort of your Sitting Room. Today’s blog is written by Arabella Davies, education and school planning consultant. She shares her best tips on how to choose a school without clocking up endless miles on the road. 

For those of you with children in Year 5, the senior school journey kicks off in the next few months. This will initially involve a combination of virtual & in-person open mornings and tours. There are very few schools that now offer private tours, however, further down the road these might be possible after the summer. Some schools have very strict deadlines for registration, as early as May or June this year, so it’s worth ensuring that you don’t miss these.

1. For the time being and until things have settled down considerably many schools will be operating their tours and open days remotely. 

This makes it difficult for schools that would normally be showing off their sites & campuses to prospective families during the summer term of year 5 in advance of either an 11+ 2022 entry or a 13+ 2024 entry. There will be an opportunity to visit in person further down the line but for now instead of having to travel to open days, this remote method could in fact make the job of narrowing down your top target list even easier and so here are some introductory pointers to get you going: 

2. Before your virtual open morning ensure you explore the website in detail.

As you are unable to be dazzled by the impressive buildings on this occasion, instead look deeper within the site for areas of your child’s individual interest. The website will have plenty of information on sports, music, drama etc. and at the interview it is these hobbies and interests which they will be most interested in;

3. Note down any questions that you feel are important as you explore the website.

Anything from daily timetable to after school activities to the amount of sport played each week to distance across the campus between classrooms and other facilities etc.

4. Download pre-recorded interviews with the head, staff members and current pupils.

There will be an opportunity to ask questions during the virtual tour to some of these staff members and pupils.

5. Talk to other families with children at your target schools.

This may not always be possible but if you can search out some other current pupils it can be of benefit to share ideas and ask questions. In particular why they chose the school in the first place, what they like and least like about it and which other schools they considered alongside their final choice.

6. Do ensure you reserve your place on any virtual open days well in advance as they do get very booked up; and ensure that you arrive at the virtual tour time.

It’s well worth typing in the access codes more than just a few minutes beforehand to ensure that all your technology is working correctly and that you have to hand any relevant documents that may have been sent to you regarding the session. 

7. At the virtual tour don’t be tempted to log-on looking too casual.

These virtual tours are “live” and I would encourage you to keep your camera active throughout, just don’t forget that all the other participants on the tour and the admissions department will also be able to see you and identify you. This method also gives you the opportunity to see who else is on the tour and to give you an idea on the types of families that are interested in this school.

8. Don’t focus too much on league tables.

With last year’s and this year’s public exams decided by teachers’ assessments/predictions and an algorithm it’s irrelevant anyway.

9. Do keep in touch with the admissions office.

They will be delighted to answer all your questions and are keen to assist you every step of the way. However, it is important to stick to their deadlines and keep them fully up to date and also to ensure they know that if you are following a curriculum outside of the UK that they are aware of this from the outset.

Arabella Davies runs Their Best Years, School Planning & Education Solutions for all parents. For Further information on virtual school tours or for assistance with your senior school journey, please don’t hesitate to contact arabella@theirbestyears.com

Their Best Years

The admissions process officially begins in the Autumn Term when your child reaches Year 6. Many schools have adopted the ISEB pre-test (www.iseb.co.uk) which is a computerised test sat in English, Maths, Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning. Meta Prep will be running a Mock Exam week from Monday 23rd August mirroring these tests and helping children prepare for the ISEB pre-tests and upcoming Grammar school exams in September.