In a major new series of video interviews with school leaders drawn from across the UAE, exclusively from SchoolsCompared.comTV, they have asked David Cook to guide parents and reveal all about how they can interrogate schools to find out just how well each will really meet the needs, and deliver on the full potential, of their children.
What are the top questions parents should ask schools when they visit, and what are good answers to these questions?
David Cook: What I like to do is say come with that three different perspectives. One perspective would definitely be about the staff. All the magic that happens in a great school or an outstanding school, happens in the classroom. So as a parent, I want to know where do you recruit most of your teachers from, and what’s your turnover rate like? You want some turnover with fresh ideas, but you don’t want a teaching body that changes 50% every two years. So, I’d want to know that question. The second perspective would be a pupil perspective. Tell me about the school itself, where are the pupils from? Are you a genuinely international school, or does one or two nationalities dominate the pupil body? And the second question of course about pupils, is where do pupils go when they leave you? So, for instance, this year I had a pupil that’s got an offer to go to Stanford, last year one of our top pupils went to Oxford. So, parents are putting their trust in schools, so I’d want to know where the pupils were going. And the third area if I may, is about the parents. We’ve discussed staff, pupils, and now parents. The great thing about social media, Which Schools Advisor, and Schools Compared, and others, is you can talk directly to parents now. So, I’d be asking parents the question, I’d be asking, “Why did you choose Repton?” If I’m doing a tour of the school, you may very well find that quite a few staff are also parents, so if I got the chance I would be asking current parents who are also staff, “What do you think about the school? And why did you send– why are you happy for your child to be at this school?”
What really matters when parents are looking for the right school for their child?
David Cook: That’s a brilliant question, and to sum it all up I would use the word, the culture of the school, the vision of the school, how does the school feel to the parent? Is it authentic? After all, schools do the same thing. They deliver Arabic, or maths, or English, or French, or science. So, it’s why they do the things they do and how they do them. If I was to ask you a question, and when watching this video, what makes a great Italian restaurant? It’s the quality of the food, but it’s also the host. There’s something about the atmosphere, there’s something about the ambiance, there’s something about having a great experience when you’re there. So, I would be saying to parents, visit the school. And how does this feel? Does it feel authentic? And does this school sell me an idea where this is a great place to come, this is an outstanding school.
COVID-19 is having a major impact across schools and revenue. Do you think all schools will survive? And should this be a factor in parents deciding on what school to choose?
David Cook: Well, it’s been a dreadful pandemic, and we’re still in the middle of it. My heart goes out to anyone is struggling in this time. One or two schools have really struggled to keep their pupil body together. Inevitably, some ex-pats have taken the difficult decision because of their own financial circumstances to go back to their home. And therefore, one or two schools are closing. We’re really hoping it’s only one or two. But as a parent, of course, you’re going to ask the question, “Does that school have a deep tradition? Is it secure? If my son is just about to start in the senior school, or my daughter in the early years, or maybe even starting A-Levels or IB, I’d want to know that that two-year course or that five-year time in senior school was secure.
Can you summarize the single most important piece of advice you can give parents when deciding on a new school for their child?
David Cook: I’m going to say research and visit. Research, there’s so much information out there in Schools Compared, the DSIB inspection rating, so we don’t have to prove to parents. The research is there, do your homework if I may. But don’t ever neglect to go and visit that school and have that experience. Like I just said, does this feel right and authentic for me and my child?
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