Do you have kids yourself and have you ever attended school open days? Or as a teacher have you been present at an open day, wearing a suit you never wear when teaching and showing off equipment that sits in a cupboard 364 days of the year? Well, I have been both of those things, and have decided there is only one question prospective parents should ask teachers:
Would you send your child to this school?
Now its fashionable to think that as a parent you need to find the “right” school for your child – that special combination of atmosphere, teaching, grounds and other children that exactly suits the talents and temperament of your child, but on the whole I think that’s untrue.
For the vast majority of kids any “good” school will do. Every so often there is a child that genuinely needs to be at perhaps a smaller school, or maybe a more caring school, or maybe more sporting school. Or even perhaps a bigger, more anonymous school. And of course some students will thrive at a more academic school.
As teachers, we would like to work in schools that do genuinely care about the students, that push them academically while supporting weaker students, where the atmosphere between students and between staff and students is one of respect. Where on the whole kids get along with each other and where there is minimal disruption in lessons, and what disruption there is is dealt with promptly and effectively. Where the kids are taught well, achieve academically and have a shot at the best universities at the end. And when we find schools like that we tend not to leave, and we are also happy sending our own kids there.
So, would you send your child to the school where you work? At a genuinely good school it would not matter that the student is a son or daughter of a teacher. At my current and previous schools the answer from some of the teachers has been yes – so over the last 10-15 years there have always been students who have had parents on staff and as far as I could see they did not suffer because of it.
But equally I have had conversations recently where the statement has been made “I would not send my child to this school” and I think that’s one of the most damming sentiments a teacher could express, equalled only by “I would no longer send my child to this school”.
So give it a go. To avoid personalising it too much at schools you visit ask “how many staff members have their own kids at this school?” and see if the answer gels with your impression of the school from brochures and displays.