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Ballard – School of choice – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 18th October 2017

October 18, 2017
Ballard - School of Choice

Ballard – School of choice

The blog from Ballard in New Milton – Bespoke Education

There’s was an interesting article in the Daily Telegraph recently encouraging parents to visit schools ‘privately’ rather than depending on Open Days ahead of choosing a school for their child.

Mark Lehain, former principal of Bedford Free School and current head of campaign group Parents & Teachers for Excellence, offers advice on choosing schools, saying that Ofsted reports “only give a limited, or in some cases misleading, picture of a school.” He suggests parents arrange visits to schools and says a “good first indication” that the school is “strong and confident” is if staff are used to showing prospective parents around, adding that it’s even better if they are flexible about when a visit occurs as it shows “they know the school will look great at any time of day.” Writing in the Telegraph, he also carries insight from a number of heads who advise on questions parents should ask schools.


Fayres galore and answering ‘difficult questions’

Whilst this is advice for maintained schools, the same principles must apply in the independent sector. Last week some of my colleagues and I attended three ‘what next?’ school fairs – two at Prep Schools and one for the general public run by the Daily Echo. We had our ‘stall’ and displays and were very happy to talk with interested parents about Ballard. Visitors got to meet the Head (and in one setting we had some pupils with us, too), to talk with the Registrar and the Marketing Manager. We enjoyed these encounters and hope that our conversations will have whetted the appetite of those with whom we spoke so that they will now visit the school. It is vital, however, that prospective parents come and see the school first hand – and ask those ‘difficult questions’ about class sizes, exam results and, above all, how happy and safe the pupils feel.

Ballard - Bespoke Education - Schools Fair

Ballard at a recent schools’ fair with some of our parents and a governor.

Open Mornings at Ballard

Long gone, I expect, is the world of my parents. Although admittedly living overseas, they did not visit either my Prep School or my Public School before registering me, buying the uniform and then taking me along on the first day of term. (No ‘taster’ or induction days then!) Today, most schools offer Open Mornings – some more formal than others. We arrange two a term on Fridays, judging that this is the best timing for working parents, and another in the Summer Term on a Saturday morning. With the exception of the latter, these are normal school days. Many parents prefer such occasions when they can visit ‘en masse’ but still have a personal tour and meet up with relevant staff in the different sections of the school. Many more, however, quite reasonably choose to arrange for a ‘private’ visit where they meet with me for about twenty minutes, have a tour of the school (and lunch if they wish!) before coming back to see me for any final questions. I feel it’s essential that they are toured by pupils – and we don’t specially select these: ordinarily we work through a rota of Y8 pupils as part of their responsibilities at the top of the Prep School. The pupils invariably ‘sell’ the school best and there are plenty of opportunities for visitors to chat with staff members along the way – just naturally as part of a normal day.

Open morning french cafe Ballard

A snap from our Summer Open Morning – with the French Cafe

First impressions

First impressions, of course, are just that: first. We trust that in making such a significant investment of time, money and lifestyle into an independent school, parents will visit and ask the ‘awkward question’, talk to others who know us well, scrutinise the website, consider the ‘outcomes’ (alumni, exam results and other achievements), read the latest inspection report and have a taster day for their child. Just yesterday I had such a visiting parent whose main ‘awkward’ question was to do with what we mean by ‘bespoke education’ and individualised learning. Far from fearing such approaches I welcome them and trust that in being open, honest and transparent, visitors will see that what we offer is indeed ‘bespoke’ and appropriate for their youngster. I trust, too, that having asked all of these questions and made their visits, parents will then trust us as educational professionals to do what’s best for their children – and therein lies another tale for another time!

Ballard School Headmaster Summer 2016

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

Ballard has two Open Mornings coming up within the next term. 

Pre-Prep Open Morning:

Wednesday 8th November (8.45am to 10.15am)

Come along and see what we do followed by refreshments and an opportunity to meet the teachers.

Whole School Open Morning:

Friday 17th November (9.30am to 12 noon)

We tweet from @BallardSchool

Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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