Choosing schools in a virtual world

Photo: iStock.com/evgenyatamanenko

Open Days are a key part of the admissions process for independent schools but the pandemic makes this impossible. Olivera Raraty of Malvern St James Girls’ School explores how the virtual admissions process has adapted in the pandemic.

Choosing a school that is the right fit for your child is difficult at the best of times. As we all know, in a Covid world it is made even more challenging when you cannot visit the school for regular Open Days in the way you could in previous years. These events often gave a helpful first introduction to potential schools on the long list where you could tour, meet pupils and staff and hear the Head speak about their school. Most schools have replaced these group visits with virtual events instead and have tried to capture the essence of their schools through these online experiences. There are similarities in format in that you will still get to hear from the Headteacher, meet a range of pupils and senior staff and perhaps enjoy a virtual tour of the school. I would like to highlight that there are also some new elements which can provide genuine advantages to parents exploring the best options for their child.

One advantage is the opportunity to explore more schools from the comfort of your own home. Schools are putting on a greater number of virtual events so you can pick a time that is convenient for you and your family. Many schools, including mine, have noticed more parents coming to virtual open events. Parents leading busy lives can fit more in as they no longer need to commit a whole day or evening to an open event. This means families can spread the net wider and dip their toe in the water to narrow down the schools they are considering more easily than ever before.

It is also far easier to ask questions from pupils and a wider range of staff through live Q&A sessions that are often a feature of the virtual format. The use of the chat function during presentations by teachers and pupils means that questions can readily be answered by the panel. If you prefer, you can even choose to maintain anonymity, so you can ask anything that you might otherwise feel uncomfortable about asking in person! You also get to hear answers to questions that other families are asking, which many people find incredibly helpful.

Olivera Raraty is Headmistress of Malvern St James Girls' School.