1. Do you like the headteacher? You’re looking for a warm yet professional/professional yet warm approach, knowledgeable and in control of the job. Greets pupils by name as you move about the school together, and you see them respond and smile. Or better still, they rush up to share something with the headteacher and he or she is happy to be briefly engaged.
  2. Does the place feel calm? Pupils should be working in a positive learning environment. You’re not looking for complete silence as that would be odd and oppressive.
  3. Are classrooms organised so that pupils can move about them independently, reaching equipment that is appropriate? Years ago some classrooms had the appearance of a tatty village hall, with piles of old crepe paper, bundles of clothes in corners and drawers and trays jammed with paper. Those days are gone now. Don’t confuse mess with friendliness, it isn’t friendly as it just gets in the way of things…
  4. Do the teachers seem knowledgeable? Ask a general question about how reading or maths is taught and listen for an interesting and reassuring answer.
  5. If something doesn’t feel right about the place it is because it isn’t right for your child. Even if you can’t put your finger on it. It is easier than you think to recognise the right school when you step inside. Trust your instincts!