When you are thinking about choosing a school for your daughter, there will be many considerations to take into account; and many dilemmas, too, as to what school offers the best overall fit to make her happy and fulfilled.
Be reassured by the fact that Heads, Housemistresses and teachers will have been through this process many times before – most not just on a professional level, but on a personal one too. All good schools should welcome you to spend as much time and answer as many questions as you and your daughter need to feel that you can make an informed decision.
You will find that the majority of schools will hold Open Days throughout the year, and that you can also organise a private visit. The latter offers you a great opportunity to see the school ‘in session’. This will tell you much about the atmosphere of the school as well as giving you the opportunity to see in action lesson activities across the curriculum.
The Open Morning gives you far greater opportunity to get into some of the nitty gritty of a school’s workings. You can also speak at length to subject tutors and Heads, rather than just ‘popping your head round the door’ and observing, as you might while school is in session. You will also have the best opportunity of all about finding out what makes a school tick: the opportunity to speak to the students themselves and at length. Are their lessons interesting and engaging? Do they feel well prepared for each ‘step up’ in their school journey? Do they enjoy being at school with friends and teachers? Do they feel stimulated by the extra-curricular offerings? Do they feel well-supported pastorally, particularly when they’re not feeling on top of the world?
At MSJ, you will get to meet the Headmistress, who will do a short presentation at the beginning of the morning explaining the school’s culture and vision, and then be available to talk to you one-to-one about particular queries. At MSJ we would also encourage you to tour the Boarding Houses after the activities in school – and this applies whether your child is interested in being a boarder or a day girl, since in our system all day girls are assigned to boarding houses to create a more integrated community and for occasional nights’ boarding.
Before you visit for Open Morning, think about the questions that you would like to ask teachers and those you would like to ask the girls. You may like to speak to girls at different stages in the school. For example, those who have just arrived in Year 7 (how did they settle? Are they enjoying it?); those in Years 10 and 11, currently doing their GCSEs (are they being well taught, well prepared and supported?); and those in Year 12 (why choose MSJ for Sixth Form?).
You might like to ask about how the school helps students to get ready for life beyond school. For example, ask about interview coaching, what help there is with internships and work placements, and mentoring by alumnae. At MSJ we are very proud of the university and careers programme offered by our Old Girls’ Association and the value it gives current cohorts of girls. Finally, ask the Head about what differentiates their school from others. What do they do really well? How do individual students know that they are valued? What are the leadership opportunities (this applies as much to Prep as to Seniors)? How are they adapting to face the changing demands of the workplace? Are they encouraging girls to consider rewarding careers in industry sectors where women are under-represented? What courses and universities are students going on to after Year 13? Do most get to where they want to be? Have a check list of questions so that you make sure you come away with everything you need to make an informed decision. All questions are welcomed; no query is too small. If you can, bring your daughter with you so you can talk about the experience together afterwards.
We would advise that rather than looking at Open Mornings and private tours as an either / or option, aim to do both if you possibly can. Each will give you a different perspective and the two together will paint a far more detailed picture.
Of course, the school’s guidance will not stop there. They should offer your child the opportunity to do a ‘taster’ day where they join a Form and spend their day in lessons and activities, exactly as if they were at school. This should be the final piece in the jigsaw as to whether a particular school is ‘the one’.
Our aim is to make the selection and admissions process as painless as possible. Remember you are not alone! Each year we help all of our prospective parents and their daughters find their way. We’re here to help, so please do call for more information.
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