Tag Archive: tricks

10 Reasons why you should visit a school Open Day (and what to do)

Visiting a school open day can feel a little bit like visiting the launch of a new shop or restaurant. Sure, you probably won’t get the free glass of bubbly, handful of vouchers and tons of free food but you get the impression that daily life is probably a little different than this. If you feel that way too, then you are probably close to the mark when it comes to school open days. We really try our best to make everyone look good. Everyone and everything. Come the Monday after, you’ll find that it’s back to business as usual but is this a reason not to visit a school open day? We believe it isn’t and we have come up with 10 reasons why you should make the effort anyway.

Although there isn’t any order of importance to these reasons, we do believe that reasons one to three feature at the top of our list for a good reason. If there was an order of importance, then these would be the most important, at least as far as we’re concerned. After reason number three, it’s really anyone’s guess. Some ideas might seem somewhat far-fetched or even controversial and some might seem like complete no-brainers (like ‘bring your child’, which for sheer no-brainer quality, we did not want to list as a top-three idea). Where we can, we’ve also linked some serious sources like the BBC and Country Life. We have focused primarily on what to do but some of the links in this blog post also suggest what to ask, which might be handy.



Okay, this might sound like a no-brainer too but when we say, ‘Meet the teachers’, we mean to say ‘Meet the teachers!‘ Ask those questions (check out some top questions here) but instead of just paying attention to the answers, try to get to know the teachers as human beings. Remember, these are the people that are going to teach your child, support your child, guide your child and be there for your child. Or they may be the people that will fail at all four… Sometimes it can be interesting not to listen to the content of the answer but the way in which it is formulated. Sometimes it can be interesting to see how a teacher engages with you and with your child(ren). In that context, it’s also good to remember this is not the Spanish Inquisition. You can ask difficult questions (more on that further down) but it’s probably best to leave your polygraph machine and 1000 Watt torch at home.



The Head is a little bit like the custodian of the school and its values. They are responsible for school policies, recruitment of teachers, the quality of teaching and learning and so on. With all matters relating to the daily running of the school, the good and the bad, the buck stops with the Head. You may not have a lot of time available to go all Inspector Columbo on the head but you’ll find they usually do some sort of talk or presentation. It is well worth visiting that speech though if you think that’s a sales pitch, well then you’re probably right too. Still, there’s often room for questions and sales pitch or not, it’s still good to hear about the values and the mission of the school.



Most of the time a tour of the school is carried out by pupils, ranging from Year 7 to Sixth Form. It depends on what you’re looking at. Most of the time, these pupils are hand-picked by the organising committee. Most of time the time, the pupils doing these tours are also giving you a sales pitch – sometimes without their even realising it. If you want to get the lay of the land, however, these pupils are your best bet. Even though they’re hand-picked and keen to share with you a portrait of a lovely school, most children find it incredibly difficult not to speak the truth. If you’re going to have your son or daughter prepare any questions, then these are the best people to ask. They go to the school, they have their favourites, they have their not-so-favourites. In short, they’ll either back up, moderate or downright negate whatever the Head told you ten minutes ago.



The no-brainer, yes, but there’s more to reason number four. The ‘needless to say’ bit is that unless your child is too young to understand any of this, there is no argument for him/her to stay at home. Even when you’re checking out a Pre- or Prep-School, during an open day there are plenty of activities on display and they’ll get plenty of play time so that you can talk to staff. Another really good reason to bring your child is that he or she will be a really good barometer as to what you should think of the school. Check how they respond to staff and how they engage. If yours is a sulky teenager, then see how they interact with the (sulky) teenagers doing the tour. Of course you can ask your child what they think of the school. This is often a cursory question on the way back home and often answered with a monosyllabic answer. You might get more of an idea of what they really think by observing them. Well, you might be lucky enough.



This came from the BBC and is pretty high on the ‘no brainer’ list. The Beeb tells you to go to the loo for instance. Not because you have to but because you want to check if it’s clean. Don’t they know that we’re on to their scheming ways by now? All joking aside, you’re there to check out their facilities but plan ahead. What are you looking for? We’d all love to see state-of-the-art facilities, a sports hall with a climbing wall that reaches into the stratosphere and a forest school area that includes deer and badgers. But what if it lacks character? Don’t forget your child(ren) will spend many years here. The school will become a huge part of their life and their memories. Our view is also that the facilities should back up the school’s vision and the school’s ethos. If they say their Arts department is amazing, then where is all the artwork? If they say their co-curriculars are incredibly important, then where are they supposed to take place?



Here’s a bit of school-related maths for you: Bad coffee = bad school. If there’s one thing we have learnt, it is that good teachers will follow the best coffee. If good teachers equals good school and good coffee equals good teachers, then good coffee equals good school. In all seriousness, do taste the food or at least try and see a menu (you can see ours on the Website). The kids have to eat here every school day.



If you’d like to get away from the sales spiels and, ‘Hey we’re amazing – seriously!’, then try and find the Registrar to talk about taster days. A taster day is what it says on the tin. Boarding schools will also do taster stays, where the actual day is extended to two or three days. The registrar or person in charge of admissions will know much more about this and they are excellent opportunities to find out what the school is really about.



Let’s be honest, choosing a school isn’t the same as choosing what to eat on a Friday night. This is a serious decision and like it or not, it is a life-changing decision, if only for one person. Looking after hundreds of young children and teenagers is also a very difficult and complex task, so you want to know how a school plans on doing this. Bullying is a good example here. We hope that there are no more school staff anywhere who say that bullying is not a problem at their school. They’d be lying. You don’t have to ask this question. You can go straight for the next level. What is your policy on bullying? What systems are in place to detect bullying? How do you deal with it in your classroom? Please do not shy away from difficult questions, for a good school will seek to answer your questions as opposed to wishing you hadn’t visited their open day.



That’s right. An open day is also an excellent opportunity to eliminate schools from your wanted list. Not only is this a difficult decision based on facts (see above), it is also a question of gut feel. If you walk through the door and think, ‘No,’ very often you’re probably best to sample the food, drink the coffee and strike through the name of that school. Honestly, we do not mind! Choosing a school is also an emotional decision. It’s got to feel right. Equally so, you may feel that a certain school is just not right for you without visiting it, based on hearsay or another preconceived idea. Why not visit the open day, spend thirty minutes to see if you’re convictions were right or that there is this whole other side that you hadn’t seen before. It is does turn out to be the former, then you can cross that school off the list for good. Well, either that or until the next open day…



There’s something oddly (and perhaps sadistically) rewarding about watching teachers who have to be on their best behaviour. Joking aside, open days can be very nice events to get to know the people inside the school better. They are also ideal to start those relations when you do have a longer-term plan in the back of your mind. Plenty of people visit a number of open days at the same school just to see the school over a period of time. If there isn’t a great staff turnaround, then they get to know the staff a bit better each time. Say there is a great deal of new faces, then what does that mean?


If you would like to find out more about our Open Day, coming up soon (well there’s a surprise-and-a-half), please visit our Open Days page on this Site.

The Ultimate Boarder’s Guide – Part One: The Art of Flying

Flying to and from the UK is a necessary evil for most international boarders. We figure that most of our international boarders probably have to fly in and out of the country about six times a year. In fact, in a couple of days’ time, some of them will have to fly back to the UK, so for part one of our Ultimate Boarders’ Guide, we wanted to highlight the art of travelling and share some tricks of the trade.


Before take-off

For some, the process starts with obtaining the correct VISA but provided you have already looked into this, you’ll be ready to look into airline tickets. We tend to do the entire process online and look into the best prices, the best times and the best itineraries. In addition to the airlines’ own Websites, there is a great variety of booking Websites that check all the airlines in one go. Sites such as Skyscanner or Skiplagged can provide a lot of the leg work for you and compare prices and itineraries. However, most of us do agree that when it comes to booking the flight you have chosen, it is better to complete the process on the airline’s own Website. Sites like Skyscanner may not list all the extras, which means you could run into costly surprises at the airport when you find out you haven’t paid for your carry-on for example.

Another thing to bear in mind when booking your ticket is not to focus too much on price alone and check for appropriate flight times and flight durations as well. There’s nothing like bagging a blinding price for an airline ticket and then finding out you’ve got a nine-hour layover at the most boring airport in the world. It’s also no good arriving into the UK after midnight or having to depart the UK at 5am. It’s difficult to find anyone to share a taxi with, trains don’t operate and don’t even get us started on the crazy o’clock wake-up calls. If you have options, then look for appropriate departure and arrival times.

Finally, when you have managed to find and book a decent flight, please do let your Boarding Administrator know. We don’t know about the administrators at other schools but ours grows extra grey hairs each time she has to chase students for arrival and departure times for weeks on end.

Boarding administrator informed, it’s time to pack your cases, which, we realise, is a highly personal experience. We don’t know how some people manage, but they can pack six weeks’ worth of personal belongings in one overnight bag. Other people need four cases to go away for the weekend. Unfortunately, we’re no good at giving advice here but we do know that there’s an army of YouTubers and a plethora of Websites that’s happy to give (read: product place) you advice on packing (here’s one example: https://youtu.be/8kq3EVso_8o). In addition to whatever the YouTube stars are telling you, here’s our own wisdom bomb with regards to packing: Check the weather! Wherever you go, always check the weather and when you go to the UK, check it twice!

With your packing done, it’s time to hit the airport. Now we do not want to sound like the Ministry of the Bleedin’ Obvious but try not to be too late. We know. We know – you know the quickest way to the airport, you know when traffic’s bad, you know when the queues for immigration and security are worst and you know where your plane is waiting for you. You’ve done this a dozen times. All this may be true but the fact remains that missing your flight because you left things too late is just so pointless. You only had one job!

It’s not like we don’t know why you’re leaving things too late. Upon the twentieth visit, even the most exciting airport is a pretty dull affair. What are you going to do there this time? Buy a $20 sandwich? A scarf worth twenty times that? If you do find yourself with time on your hands – say your plane is delayed – here’s a blog post that might help you out.


In the air

You may be lucky enough to fly a travel class north of Economy but we’ve come to the realisation that even in Business or First, the flight takes just a long and that air travel is pretty boring. There. Is. Nothing. To. Do. Well, it’s not like there’s nothing to do but there isn’t much to do either. Your choices are limited to watching the onboard entertainment system, watching whatever you’ve downloaded, playing games, eating, doing your homework, getting frustrated about the onboard WiFi, eating some more, chatting to passengers or talking about them behind their backs. If all else fails, you can always eat.

If you’re a nervous passenger and you sit there, anxiously wondering why the plane’s bumpy and where all the noises come from, then you could read this article from thetravel.com. Actually, we thought it was quite a nice article even for non-nervous travellers. There are tons of hidden gems on aeroplanes. Did you know, for instance, that the tiny triangle above the windows suggests that this window gives the crew the best view of the wing? And did you know there’s a magic button at the bottom of the arm rest that might provide you with extra legroom? That said, if you want to shut yourself off from all the sounds and sights of the plane, we suggest you invest in some good earphones and a face mask (there are tons of articles and YouTube videos about carry-on essentials)

A sensible thing to do on most flights, and especially long-hauls, is to drink plenty of water. Bottled water preferably, since the water on flights can be a little unsavoury to say the least. Come to think of it, you might want to stay away from coffee and tea as well. Staying hydrated is the best onboard advice we can give you. The second-best is to avoid eating too much. In general, the type of food to avoid are bread, pasta and noodles. The reason behind this is that your body is largely motionless during flight, which means you digestive tract is not processing food as quickly as it normally would. It leaves a lot of food just sitting around in your body. On that note, it is also best to avoid eating if it isn’t time to eat yet. What do we mean by that? As you probably already know, meal times on long-hauls often make very little sense other than that they’re served just after take-off and just before landing. They do not take into account when you would normally eat or when your body would like to think you should be eating. Having a large dinner when it is, according to your body clock, time to sleep, means that your body goes a little nuts. Again, food is not digested properly, which leads to bloating and increased jet lag.

You could think about bringing your own snacks. The Website Packsmith wrote quite a handy blog post on what to prepare in advance. Personally, we’d avoid the pasta salads they recommend (because otherwise the previous paragraph makes very little sense) and we’d  like to make it clear that while it is fine to bring food on an aeroplane, do check whether you can take it out of the plane in the destination country as well!  

By the time they’ve cleared the trays on your long-haul, you’ll find that you have reached your second or third hour of flight, which is usually when boredom truly kicks in. As a matter of fact, you may be caught by the inescapable feeling that this flight is going to last forever. You may be fortunate enough to be able to sleep on a plane. If so, please do catch up on some Z’s. If you cannot, here are our six tips on how to sleep during a flight:

Choose the right seat! Check seatguru.com for the best seats for sleeping for you.

Get the temperature right! An ideal way of doing so is to stand up, wrap your blanket around you and sit down again. Then buckle up and you’re good to go (to dreamland).

Support your head and neck! Yup, it’s all about hand-and-neck support. If you’ve brought a travel cushion you have been wise. If the pillow provided does not give enough support, get another or use a coat, a jumper of anything else soft and squishy.

Straighten those legs (a little)! We’ve seen people curl up like little balls or attempt frantic auditions to get this guy’s part in Ocean’s Eleven but all things considered, the legs straight with a slight bend at the knees is probably the most effective way to sleep.

Keep your head clear! Your mental state definitely influences your sleep, so being a nervous flyer is unlikely to help you sleep. Whatever you do, please (re-)consider taking any medication to help you sleep. Most professionals would advocate against this. Some people swear by noise-reducing earphones but, again, this is a personal choice.

Bring a Do Not Disturb sign! Well, maybe not, although some travellers do let flight attendants or crew know that they would prefer not to be disturbed.

And with all that out of the way, here’s why you probably shouldn’t sleep too much on a flight: Sleeping too much can enhance jet lag. Imagine getting on a flight at 9am, sleeping ten hours and arriving at 11pm. How will you sleep when your head hits the pillow (a real pillow this time) in two hours from now?

Staving off jet lag is probably at the forefront of everyone’s mind when they think about air travel survival. Actually, quite a few things we’ve discussed in this blog help reduce jet lag. Avoiding carbs, avoiding caffeine, sleep tips, selecting flight times strategically and getting to the airport on time all help the effects long-haul travel has on our circadian rhythm


After landing

If you find you’re suffering from jet lag even in spite of our best tips and your best efforts, the best ways to fight it are to expose yourself to plenty of sunshine (please, no jokes about sunshine in Scarborough) and eating at standard mealtimes, even if your body is indicating it’s hungry. The key to combatting jet lag is to adapt to the new time zone as soon as possible. In our experience, when we do find ourselves wide awake at 4am, we try not to get too frustrated at the prospect of having nothing to do for the next three hours. Remember the clear head! Perhaps it’s best to adopt that strategy even long after you’ve deboarded.

On the subject of deboarding, once the plane has arrived at its destination and the people who cannot wait have gotten up mid-landing to retrieve their carry-on from the bins, it is time to think about the problems that may lay ahead. Mind you, we do not recommend getting up before the captain has given you the green light to do so but some people seem to think they can beat the crowds, even if they are sat at the back of the plane. Better to do a quick mental check and see if you have got all the relevant documentation to clear passport inspection.  Do you need to complete a landing card? We know that a lot of people leg it to passport control but familiarise yourself with your surroundings as well and take it easy. Your checked bags may take a long time to clear anyway, so treat yourself to a pit stop on a toilet that’s not basically a hoover (like the one on the aircraft). Brush your teeth or fix your hair. You’ve arrived! That means you’ve done the hardest part. You’ve sat inside a steel tube with ten hours’ worth of compressed farts emitted by well over 200 passengers. You’ve done it and you should reward yourself with a little bit of you-time. Or one of those giant Toblerone bars at least!


A Tiny Bit of Onboard entertainment: which fellow travellers to avoid! 

Clearly anyone who’s going to mess with your personal comfort, and by that we mean sleep, is a fellow traveller we’d personally try to avoid. This includes the people behind us kicking our seats. What are these people doing anyway? Why kick a seat? The list isn’t limited to the ‘kickers’ of course. High on our list are the ‘immediate recliners’ and the ‘headrest grabbers’. The former attempt to go fully horizontal well before the plane has levelled out while the latter cannot seem to get up without using your headrest as some sort of pulley system. We try not to sit near either though they can be difficult to spot before take-off.

Anyone who makes a lot of noise, including, but not limited to, people who decided to bring games and a tablet full of movies but no headphones, people who immediately want to strike up conversations with you and people who travel in a party that’s larger than four. We haven’t tried taking a Do Not Disturb sign and we feel that perhaps it’s too passive aggressive a gesture but who knows. It may work. Little children can be a nuisance too but at least they didn’t ask to be on this flight and they often don’t know what’s happening to them. So long as they don’t scream the plane down for more than two hours, we can cope.

Anyone who’s alien to the concept of personal space. Seen the pictures of long hair draped over the headrest? Well say no more. But we’re also thinking about the people who insist on reading broadsheet newspapers all across the three seats or the person in the middle who seems to think the two armrests next to him/her are theirs.

Anyone trying to avoid any other passengers for belonging in categories one to three. Yup, that’s right: It’s us. Let’s face it, we’re all in this together, quite literally so, and we have to make the most of our time on the bus or just grin and bear it.



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