How to make the most of an international school Open Day

Everything prospective parents, employers and relocation professionals need to know when researching and looking around global schools.

The British School in the Netherlands

The British School in the Netherlands

A good way to get a feel for the culture and ethos of a school is to attend an Open Day. Often the school will have talks from members of staff, governors and pupils – with useful advice about admissions policies, school life and academic results – and prospective parents are given a tour of the facilities. This is the perfect opportunity to get a good feel for the school and the type of children it produces. It is also a chance to see the school’s campus and facilities first hand.One of the key ingredients for a successful expatriate assignment is a happy family who feel connected with the community – and the right school plays a huge part in this. Rami Madani, head of school at The International School of Kuala Lumpur, says, “The expatriate experience needs to be a success for the whole family and the choice of school often plays a critical role in contributing to this success, creating an instant community and providing opportunities for involvement. It is therefore vital to thoroughly research, and if possible, arrange a campus tour so that you can meet with key faculty, parents and students and see the school in action. Researching the school’s culture, values and approach to inclusion is every bit as important as understanding the curriculum and academic results.”

Draw up a shortlist

Linda Belonje from KIS International School Bangkok in Thailand suggests doing research online and then making a shortlist of 3-6 schools. She says, “Make an appointment to visit your shortlisted schools. Try to visit during term time, as schools usually do maintenance during the holidays and you won’t be able to see learning in action. Make a list of questions of characteristics that are most important to you and bring this to each of your visits. Ask to be connected to other families at the school so you can also ask them questions.”The main points to consider on a school visit are:
  • Do you feel welcome as you enter the school?
  • Are the staff friendly and confident?
  • Are pupils involved in the school tour? Are the children friendly, polite and confident?
  • Are the school resources well treated and respected?
  • How long has the head teacher been in post? This provides evidence of stable leadership
  • Can parents visit during break or at lunchtime to see how the pupils interact? Do children have a good relationship with staff?
  • Are the administrative staff friendly and helpful? They are the people with whom you will be communicating on a daily basis
  • How does the school communicate with parents? Does it produce regular newsletters? Can you see copies?
  • What are the displays on the walls like? Are there photos of children engaging in interesting activities, such as field trips and community involvement?
  • Will the child have an orientation visit or be given a buddy to help him or her settle in?
  • What extracurricular activities are available and how many of them are free?
  • How much scope is there for involvement in a parents’ organisation? Does the school offer programmes and support for accompanying partners?
David Willows, director of admissions and advancement at the International School of Brussels in Belgium, advises, “Visit each school, meet the people who work there, talk to them about the hopes, fears and expectations you have for your children, and ask lots of questions about the school’s values and philosophy of learning.”

What to look for in an international school

For families who are not familiar with international schools – what they offer and how they work – it can be hard to know what to look for and how to identify the best school for your child. Mark London, head of marketing at ACS International Schools, explains, “With schools based in both the UK and in Qatar, at ACS International Schools we advise parents to plan well in advance and find out as much information as possible about different options – look at school websites, previous inspections and reports, and school directories.” 
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Mr London adds, “Virtual tours of school campuses are useful too, but be sure to visit each school and talk to teachers, staff and existing families in person to get a sense of its true atmosphere. There is a lot to be said for following your gut feeling about where your child will be happy and thrive.  “International schools are also especially well placed to support relocating families on arrival, with resources such as expert school counsellors for each division, family transition teams and ‘buddy’ programmes.”To read more on international schools, see ‘International Schools: what you need to know’

Experience school culture through different channels

Once you have decided upon a school for your child, it is recommended to have more than one visit, to experience different aspects of school life. Joanne O’Connor, community liaison officer at 3e International School, Beijing, says, “While a parent’s typical first impression is gleaned through a school tour, experiencing the school from difference perspectives, such as visiting during a public community event, helps parents gauge a greater feel for the community and consistency of the school philosophy in action. Usually the energy, culture and values of a school are difficult to experience solely via a school tour.”
 Advice on how to apply to a school
Ms O’Connor also offers advice for parents who many not have the opportunity to visit the school before making the decision, for example if they are moving to a different country. She says, “Different perspectives could include phone or email discussions with key admissions, academic, community and management staff, following them on Facebook or WeChat (in China), and viewing their event videos on their website.”Other factors to consider when looking at schools are boarding facilities and curriculum options. For further advice, see below.BoardingCurriculum

For more information on choosing the right school, see our guides: Education & Schools in the UK and International Education & Schools.

Upcoming open days



3E International School, Beijing, ChinaTour of Lido Campus (Kindergarten), 5 November 2019Web: 3einternationalschool.orgAlice Smith School, Kuala Lumpur, MalaysiaPrimary Campus Open Morning, 6 November 2019Web: International School, SingaporeTours by appointmentWeb: Patana School, ThailandTours by appointmentWeb: International School, BruneiTours by appointmentWeb: www.jerudonginternationalschool.comKIS International School, Bangkok, ThailandTours by appointmentWeb: College MalaysiaAdmissions Afternoon with tour of the College –13 November 2019 and 4 December 2019Singapore Admission Event – 6 November 2019Kuala Lumpur Admissions Event – 16 November 2019Web: www.marlboroughcollege.myNord Anglia International School, Hong KongPre-Schools Open Day – 26 October 2019Web: Schools India Tours by appointmentWeb: www.pathways.inSeisen International School, Tokyo, JapanTours by appointmentWeb: www.seisen.comShanghai Community International School, ChinaTours by appointmentWeb: www.scis-china.orgStamford American International School, Singapore22 November 2019Web: Trust School, SingaporeNursery Open Morning – 23 January 2020 and 14 May 2020Whole School Open Morning – 20 February 2020Sixth Form Open Evening – 27 February 2020Web: International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL)Tours by appointmentWeb: Western International School of Shanghai (WISS)Tours by appointmentWebsite:


Useful informationAmerican School of The Hague, The NetherlandsTours by appointmentWeb: www.ash.nlBavarian International School gAG (BIS), GermanyTours by appointmentWeb: www.bis-school.comBBIS Berlin Brandenburg International School, GermanyTours by appointmentWeb: www.bbis.deHastings International School, MadridTours by appointmentWeb: www.hastingsschool.comInter-Community School Zurich, SwitzerlandEarly Years Open House – 17 January 2020Web: www.icsz.chKings GroupTours by appointmentWeb: kingsgroup.orgMarymount International School Rome, ItalyTours by appointmentWebsite: www.marymountrome.comMougins School, FranceTours by appointmentWeb: www.mougins-school.comMunich International School, Germany13 November 2019, 15 January 2020 and 5 February 2020Web: www.mis-munich.deSt George’s British International School, Rome, ItalyTours by appointmentWeb: British School of Brussels, BelgiumTours by appointmentWeb: www.britishschool.beThe British School in the NetherlandsBeginners Open MorningsJunior School Diamanthorst – 5 November 2019Junior School Leidschenveen – 6 November 2019Junior School Vlaskamp – 7 November 2019Web: www.britishschool.nlThe British School Warsaw, Poland Early Years Open Day – 7 November 2019Web:


Useful information
  • Relocating to the US: Choosing a school
British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park, USASelect Open House ­– 2 November 2019 and 12 January 2020Web: www.bischicagolp.orgThe Newman School, Boston, USATours by appointmentWeb: www.newmanboston.orgThe York School, Toronto, CanadaJK/SK Information Session – 5 November 2019 and 26 November 2019Middle School Information Session – 5 November 2019 and 26 November 2019Grade 1-5 Information Session – 7 November 2019 and 28 November 2019Old Mill Information Session – 20 November 2019Senior School Information Session – 28 November 2019JK Activity Morning – 4 December 2019Web: www.yorkschool.comTown Centre Private Schools, Markham, Canada16 November 2019, 18 January 2020, 25 April 2020 and 13 June 2020Web:


Useful informationACS International SchoolsACS CobhamAll School (Ages 2–18) – 21 November 2019 and 28 March 2020 ACS EghamUpper School (Ages 11-18) – 7 November 2019All School (Ages 4-18) – 16 November 2019, 16 January 2020 and 14 March 2020 ACS HillingdonAll School (Ages 4-18) – 23 November 2019, 5 December 2019, 27 February 2020 and 21 March 2020 Web: www.acs-schools.comBox Hill School, Surrey, EnglandSchool at work day – 14 November 2019Web: www.boxhillschool.comInternational School of London, EnglandIB Diploma College Open Evening – 21 November 2019Web: www.isllondon.orgMerchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, ScotlandOpen Morning – 2 November 2019Sixth Form Open Evening – 7 November 2019Web: School, Kent, EnglandIndividual tours by appointmentGroup Visits – 9 November 2019, 16 November 2019, 30 November 2019, 18 January 2020, 29 January 2020, 1 February 2020, and 8 February 2020Open Morning – 13 June 2020Web: www.sevenoaksschool.orgSt. Columba’s College, Dublin, IrelandTours by appointmentWebsite: www.stcolumbas.ieTASIS The American School in England, SurreyTours by appointmentWeb:

For the latest education news, articles and practical advice, see our Education & Schools section.

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