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School open days: how they work

School open days: how they work

“I’ll Google it”: these three words have become embedded in the common vernacular. We utter them before researching a topic from the comfort of our sofa or on the go using a mobile device. But when it comes to choosing a school for your child, this convenience can’t replicate the tangible and emotional insight you gain from physically visiting to explore the campus, meet staff and pupils, and absorb the atmosphere. That’s why school open days haven’t been replaced by the internet.

Both private and state schools in the UK organise open days for prospective pupils and their parents to showcase themselves in the best possible light. Here’s how they work.

Private schools

Private schools typically have smaller class sizes so can offer a more personalised experience during open days, like individual tours, during which you can expect to be shown around their impressive facilities – such as sports pitches, laboratories and performing arts centres.

These high-achieving schools may emphasise their curriculum and academic pedigree, including exam league tables and prestigious university placements, together with their unique culture and commitment to a holistic education.

A combination of factors – such as resources, small capacity and long holidays – allow private schools to be flexible with their open days, whether that means they run multiple days or allow you and your child to come in and look around on your own.

Remember, selection is a two-way process at private schools – you are choosing a school as much as they are choosing your child. So, prepare a list of questions you want answered when you’re there.

Visit the UK Independent Schools’ Directory to find out when and where open days are happening – or just Google it.

State schools

State schools tend to be larger as they serve a broad local catchment area, meaning their open days, which they offer once or twice a year (typically in June and October), might be oversubscribed. It will take a lot of logistical planning to make sure your relocation calendar aligns with the required date, which can be found on each school’s website.

While they don’t have the same level of financial resources as fee-paying private schools, many still offer excellent facilities you can explore. With so many families in attendance, you will probably be shown around in groups, so be assertive if you have any pressing questions about things like the curriculum and culture.

Virtual tours

If you can’t make a school open day work logistically, there is an increasingly popular alternative: virtual tours. These online options, which are more commonly offered by private schools, enable you and your child to check out everything from the classrooms to the canteen while you’re still overseas. They’re not as personal as a physical visit, which lets you feel the fabric of the school and understand its culture, but they give a better perspective than just visiting a website or reading a prospectus.

Consult with Simply London

Consult with Simply London to find out when schools you’re interested in have an open day and to secure your attendance. We can also provide personalised guidance on the school admissions process and assist with your application, so you can secure a place for your child.


Want to learn about the school options in London? Buy and download our Guide to state and private schools in London!

This guide gives you all the detailed information to help you understand schooling in London, including:

  • Overview of the British education system
  • Where are the best schools in London?
  • Which school grade for which age?
  • The school day and the academic year
  • State schools
  • Private schools
  • International schools
  • Boarding schools
  • The applications process for state and private schools
  • GCSEs, A levels and the International Baccalaureaute
  • How to select a school for children with Special Education Needs
  • Glossary of school terms used in the UK
  • Links to essential websites and resources
  • Note: This guide covers primary and secondary schools, for children between 4 and 16 years old.

Click below for a preview of this fantastic guide:

The Guide to Schools in London
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