The first half term of the year is about to end. I’ve just checked, signed and hopefully penned a few helpful words (but I’ll let students and parents be the judge of that) on the academic reports for Years 8 to 13, and I think my arm is about to drop off. Before it does however I’ll share a few thoughts about our recent Open Day that might be helpful for anyone currently choosing a school for their child.
Saturday 15 October was our Bradford Grammar Junior, Senior and Sixth Form Open Day, one of several in the region this season. Like others, we put on a bit of show. In essence we tidied up corridor and classroom displays, wheeled out a couple of flat screen TVs, plotted a route around the site for our prospective families and organised pupils to guide them. We went shopping for goodies for the ever popular Modern Languages café and the Parents Association put the kettle on to provide refreshments. This year I wrote a speech, and I almost stuck to it.
Current pupils, parents and colleagues have an awful lot of affection for BGS and we wanted to present our school positively to all visitors. At the same time, we tried not to overdo things and leave some natural school habitat in situ. It is always our hope that visitors to BGS will get an authentic feel for the place, not always easy at an open event I admit. We understand that a choice of school is made with both head and heart, and we endeavour to help prospective parents to make the right decision, wherever it might take them. That’s why the personality of a school – its identity and tone of voice – is so important, and applying too much polish isn’t always helpful.
Many Heads, and I’m amongst them, will tell anyone who stands still long enough at an open event that choosing a school is like buying a house. You know when you walk into the right one. Parents, and I’m one, quite rightly weigh things up, possibly even overthink things. But the final decision about a house, a school for your child, is something that you feel, often intuitively. As I mentioned in my speech last Saturday, this potential ‘heart and head’ moment might come at Open Day itself, or later in the evening perhaps – a moment of reflection between the routines on Strictly Come Dancing – or when families visit a school again on a normal, routine day (always recommended).
So, does a school feel right? This is the key question.
In this context the most important thing I’d say about BGS is that we are a happy school and I’d like to think this was self-evident at Open Day. BGS, at both junior and senior levels, has a tradition of recognising and nurturing young people as individuals, and working with parents to produce capable, confident and compassionate young adults – decent people who know what they are about – ably equipped for university and adult life thereafter.
We care deeply about developing the whole child – mind, body and spirit. Many schools will say the same. But does the prospective parent feel it? Can evidence of this passion for holistic education be discerned amongst those recently spruced-up displays or on the school’s Twitter feed? Is the Head convincing when he/she speaks? Are the pupils? What do members of the existing parent body say?
BGS can trace its history back to before 1548 and in that time our purpose, now translated into school values, has changed little. Excellence, Compassion, Determination, Opportunity and Service, we stand for something lasting and real. Education in the round is our game. BGS is defined by both our heritage and forward looking approach. Walk from the Price Hall and into the state of the art Clarkson Library and it would be hard not to get an instant impression of the blend of the traditional and the modern that BGS achieves for its pupils – which is manifestly identifiable with us.
I’d like to think that the words spoken at our Open Day by our existing pupils, representatives of the parental body and staff, chime with the atmosphere of the school, the brickwork and fabric of BGS. When these things fit together and form part of a seamless whole, the overall impression can be very persuasive. What you hear, see, and feel is ultimately what you get.
As is ever the case, it is the existing pupils who tell prospective parents what they need to know most. Both of our Head Prefects spoke far more eloquently than I when they had a stint at the microphone talking about lessons, trips, concerts, expeditions, sports tours, volunteering … I could go on. Meanwhile our young Year 7 guides revelled in showing off their school and most were about as disciplined as I was when it came to sticking to the script and, in some instances, the prescribed route, such was their enthusiasm.
All in all, BGS had a great day welcoming prospective families through our doors and we look forward to getting to know many of them much better in the fullness of time.
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“I’d like to think that the words spoken at our Open Day by our existing pupils, representatives of the parental body and staff, chime with the atmosphere of the school, the brickwork and fabric of BGS. When these things fit together and form part of a seamless whole, the overall impression can be very persuasive.”