This spring many parents will attend Open Mornings at Independent Senior Schools as part of the process of choosing a school for their child. In a recent survey of parents at Lancing College, 73% said that an Open Morning was the most important source of information when they considered different schools.

If you are at this stage, you may have done some research beforehand, spoken to friends, and put together a shortlist of two or three schools to visit. Below are some things to consider when visiting an Independent Senior School Open Morning:

1 Are you witnessing the school on show?
While it is tempting for any school to pull out all the stops and put on a special display, it is more important that you get a real sense of what a normal day might be like for your child.

2 What opportunities do you have to talk to pupils?
Observing pupils at your shortlisted schools will give you the best possible indication of the ethos and culture of the school. Do they appear happy, relaxed and confident? Are they well behaved and supportive of each other? It is important to find out from pupils on a one-to-one basis what the school is really like.

3 Does the school have the capacity and expertise to treat your child as an individual?
Children develop academically and emotionally at different paces; they will sometimes find circumstances challenging. Find out how the school will care for your child; what is in place to ensure that you will be kept fully informed of your child’s progress, both in class and also broader support. Ideally, your chosen school should be small enough to ensure appropriate individual pastoral care, but large enough to offer a breadth of academic and co-curricular opportunities.

4 Academic results and all-round experience
Children need to be happy and comfortable if they are to flourish and maximise their potential. Your chosen school should offer the best academic opportunities, alongside a wider programme that develops and expands broader interests and skills. Look for a school where pupils reach their potential and can explore new horizons. This could be in music, art, sporting excellence, hobbies, CCF, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award etc.

5 Preparation for adult life
While it may seem far off, you will no doubt want your chosen school to prepare your son/daughter for life after school. If you get the opportunity, ask some of the Sixth Form pupils how well prepared they feel to leave school. How has the school guided them to choose options and to leave as confident, self-aware young adults? How strong is career advice and what opportunities are there for exploring different career paths? How strong are the links with Alumni? How likely is it that you and your child will develop a lasting relationship with the school?

6 The Head 
This may be the first time you have had the opportunity to meet the Head. They will be crucial to your child’s time at the school, so ask them about the culture and ethos of the school. How inspiring and imaginative are they? Does the Head talk to your child or just to you? How long has the Head been at the school – are they likely to move on? Ask on what basis could your child ever be asked to leave the school – this will tell you about the school’s discipline and boundaries, as well as the academic pressure on pupils. After the Open Morning, spend time reflecting on the experience with your son/daughter, what they liked and what they might want to know more about. At Lancing, the team encourages parents to get in touch and make a second trip to the school for a more personalised tour. It’s always good to have another opportunity to tour the school, speak with the Head, pupils and other relevant staff.

Lancing College, Lancing, West Sussex BN15 0RW; lancingcollege.co.uk