There’s far more to the best private schools than NAPLAN results or a slick website, which is why the best way to assess a prospective school against your selection criteria is to see it for yourself.
Every school has a culture and community spirit of its own, and a private school tour or open day is the most effective way of determining the best private school for your family.
Tours and open days are also your opportunity to see first-hand the school’s facilities, classrooms and grounds, and to soak up the general atmosphere. All of these factors will help reassure you that your child will thrive and grow in their new environment.
What’s the difference between a school tour and an open day?
A private school tour is a personally guided tour of the school grounds. It could consist of either a small group of two to three families, or a one-on-one tour, generally led by the school registrar.
One of the main benefits of a guided tour is that they’re usually held during school hours, so you can witness school life in action. That means watching the children interact, seeing the sorts of activities they’re undertaking and getting a first-hand view of how teachers manage their classrooms.
Meanwhile, open days are held a handful of times a year—generally on a weekend—when the doors are opened and the public are invited to inspect the school and its facilities at their leisure. Usually, teachers and staff are dotted throughout the school to offer information or guide you to a particular area or facility. You can also expect to hear from the school principal, which is a great way to gauge the leadership values of the school.
It’s completely normal to attend open days at two or three different schools as well as go on a guided tour, as you build your shortlist and ultimately narrow down your search to a final frontrunner.
What should you ask on a guided tour?
Here are some examples of great questions to ask:
- What’s included in the school fees, and can they be paid in installments?
- How does the school induct new students?
- What kind of clubs and extracurricular activities does the school offer?
- What is the school’s homework policy?
- Does the school have programs available for students gifted in sports, music, arts or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)?
- What does the learning support program look like?
- How does the school communicate regularly with parents?
- What opportunities are available for parents to get involved in the school community?
- What is the school’s bullying policy?
- What is the ethos of the school in relation to faith, if it’s connected to a church?
Making the most of your open day or private tour
Coming prepared with specific questions, like those above, and an idea about the types of facilities you specifically want to see are a good idea. It’s also helpful to jot down notes so you don’t forget anything—it’s easy for details to blur after you’ve visited several different schools.
To help you shortlist and compare schools of interest, we’ve put together a checklist you can print and record your observations and thoughts during school tours. You'll find this free checklist at the bottom of every tour listing on our Tour and Open Day Finder. It might be a good idea to have your child complete a form too, to encourage their involvement in the decision making process.