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School open days – a chance for the head teachers and principals to sell their secondary schools to local parents and pitch all of the unique benefits their hub of education carries.

I have written this blog post to give an account of my thoughts from not only a recruitment consultants perspective, but that of a parent as well. I really got to see the different ways in which heads perceive their schools and Academies. Each Head also has different persuasive abilities and skills in presenting their school to their audience.

As the open evening season draws to a close, I begin to reflect on the Principals I have seen, and will within this blog post, discuss the pros can cons of their presentations and set them in context against the school being presented.

The first institution I went to was an academy in South London which had recently been taken over by a well known Federation. The Principal was confident and charming with a “can do” attitude. When he delivered his speech, he was so convincing that I (from the talk alone) would have thought the school was an established Academy already on a plateau of excellent results with established buildings and long serving staff. This wasn’t because there was any massaging of figures; it was because the Principal’s approach was so confident. There is no doubt that this Academy is a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis of the old school!

The second was a small Roman Catholic mixed school with a recent rebuild and an emphasis on caring and spirituality as opposed to the first which was centred on raising academic achievement. As a parent who found secondary school quite intimidating myself, I found something very comforting about the presentation of this school. The Head Teacher claimed to know all 700 children’s names (and I believe that is absolutely true). She seemed very approachable and demonstrated prior knowledge of several parents in the audience whose children had been through the school before. There was less of a mention of results and more ambition to bring up spiritual, rounded young people.

The last institution I visited was a large academy, completely new, with very experienced senior managers. There seemed to be an essence of freedom here in which teachers and heads could shape the institution from the ground up (as it was built) along with its policies. The teachers reported that teaching there was so much fun, even compared to other good schools. They claimed the lessons were fun because of the rituals and routines which students engage in, which really do succeed in making them fully participating learners. The Principal was passionate about explaining these rituals, routines and structures built into the day and the curriculum which work to engage students of all abilities. I came away with the impression that this was a place where everyone could succeed. This was partly because the experience of the managers had been allowed to blossom and shape the design of school life in this establishment. The Principal seemed like he knew all of this back to front – but his presentation was possibly more “technical” (in an educational systems sense) than the others. Like the first there was not so much mention of care, and leaning towards making everyone feel at home.

Overall, I came away from the three presentations aware of the competition there now is between Secondary educational institutions. Standards are high and “sink” schools simply do not exist any more which in turn puts increasing amounts of pressure on teachers to get their kids acing exams.

Tell us your thoughts!Which secondary school would you prefer out of the three and why?

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