Open days with a difference – the new normal

As we enter 2021 and with coronavirus still rife, life as we once knew it will not be returning back to ‘normal’ for a while. Instead, we must hit the ground running and accept these changes and make the most out of this bad situation.

Last year saw the beginning of something new for many schools and colleges across the country: virtual events. From open days and tours to school productions and assemblies, schools have had to embrace the new normal and take many of their usual calendar events online.

During summer 2020, senior leadership teams used that time to plan how they were going to make open events and tours of the schools happen. As the use of video, Zoom and Microsoft Teams rocketed, this became the only viable option for many. Fast forward to September 2020 and the start of the new academic year. Schools welcomed film crews and video experts on to the grounds in order to capture their buildings, teams and students at their best.

Following the launch of these virtual open events and tours, some schools had to host multiple dates in order to meet demand. The opportunity to get to know schools from the comfort of a living room, clearly had its advantages.

Whilst this new format is expected to continue for some time, what benefits can parents expect to see from this and how can they make the most it?

1. Like you would have originally, carefully compile a list of the schools or colleges that you’re keen for your child to go to. Speak with them about where they want to go, they will usually want to go where their friends are going, but chat through the positives and negatives to help you both make an informed decision.

2. Check the website of the schools/colleges in your shortlist to find out the dates of their virtual open events. Make a diary note of these and if the option is available, book a place before they fill up. This will give you the perfect opportunity to hear from the headteacher and find out all the important information, as if you were at the physical open day.

3. To communicate to prospective students and families, schools have had to produce a lot more resources. Make the most of what is available as it can be rare that such a wealth of information is available without stepping foot into a school. Many schools are offering the chance to get to know teachers, students and general student life including what lunch at the canteen looks like or what extracurricular activities are available.

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4. A virtual 360 tour offers you the chance to look around the school and get your bearings. Whilst it isn’t the same as the real thing, use this opportunity to really get to know the layout of the school and where things are located. Don’t forget you can go on the tour more than once, so by the time September comes, they will know where to go!

5. Involve your child throughout this decision-making process, after all it is where they’ll be studying for the next few years and shaping them as a person. If your child requires extra support, look at what is available to them or contact the school to find out more details.

6. Whilst the website offers all the key information, don’t forget to look at the school’s social media. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram offer a different, less formal insight.

7. Especially now, safety is key. Be sure to look at the measures the school has put in place in regards to the pandemic and how they will keep, not only your child, but others safe too.

8. Finally, whilst schools may not be welcoming hundreds of families through the door, check whether they are offering a one-to-one tour for a parent and child. Some may be able to provide this after school hours but spaces will be limited, so contact them directly.

Whilst this new format is expected to continue for some time, what benefits can parents expect to see from this and how can they make the most it?

So, whether you’re choosing a place at a secondary school or sixth-form college, Educate recommends utilising everything that these schools and colleges are offering as this looks to be the future for some time. Let’s embrace the new normal!

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