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When visiting an independent school open day, it can be tricky to know which questions to ask. You want to make sure you are as informed as possible when making this important decision for your child. 

In the second blog in this series, Nikki Miller, editor of the Nursery and Schools Guide Edinburgh, continues her helpful checklist of questions to ask when attending independent school open days. 

Read part one of this blog here.



  • Are after-school activities included in the fees, are any of them compulsory and are there a variety of activities available for all year groups?  
  • Does the school have a CCF unit or participate in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme?  
  • Do any activities have waiting lists and can children of all abilities can join in?  
  • What time does the school day start and end? Does the school offer wrap-around care and holidays clubs. If so, how much do they cost? How many places are available?  

Most schools include teacher-led after-school activities in the fees (unless the activity has overheads). Ask about waiting lists and whether or not children of all abilities can join in. 



  • Which year groups have access to these facilities? How do pupils access off-site facilities?  
  • What has been the largest investment in the schools facilities recently and does the school plan to invest further?  
  • Which facilities can the children access at playtime?  

Independent schools are renowned for their excellent facilities. But do remember to ask what conditions are in place for use of the facilities. For example, can children access the tennis courts at playtime? Boarding schools often have longer playtimes and more flexibility – thus, they can provide access to facilities which are off-limits at day schools. 



  • What sports are timetabled into the school day?  
  • How many hours of sport are there on the weekly timetable? 
  • Does the school participate in competitive matches against other schools and in which sports? 
  • How do pupils get selected to be in a team? 
  • What sports facilities does the school have access to? Are they on the same campus as the main school building? If not, how do pupils access these facilities? 
  • What happens to games lessons when the weather is too bad to go outside? Do pupils stay in the classroom with a video or are there indoor facilities or activities?  

Sports lessons are timetabled at most independent schools, but wider sports options take place as after-school activities. Remember, if your child only makes the ‘C team' in a large school, they may not get much game time at the weekends, unlike a small school where everyone takes part. But a large school is quite likely to have a winning ‘A team' and compete in more niche sports.  



  • Is drama on the timetable and can you take external drama exams eg. LAMDA?  
  • If private music tuition is offered, for which instruments and which age groups is it available? Does the school offer taster classes and instrument hire?  
  • Are children taken out of lessons to attend private music lessons?  
  • What opportunities do pupils have to perform to an audience, either individually or in groups?  
  • Does the school take part in any external music or drama competitions?  
  • Are shows very competitive or can all children take part regardless of ability?  
  • If your child receives private music lessons outside school, can they still participate in school orchestras, bands and concerts?  

Most schools will have a choir and orchestra and stage regular drama and music productions. But are shows/orchestras very competitive or can all children take part regardless of ability? Having private music lessons during the school day will mean your child misses out on lesson time (as lunch and playtime slots are limited). So, it might be worth considering private tuition outside school. 



  • Does the school offer full, weekly and/or flexible boarding?  
  • Is it possible for your child to attend taster boarding days?  
  • Do the routines, house system and timetables of day and boarding pupils differ?  
  • What is the boarding/day pupil ratio? 
  • What age does the school take boarders from? 
  • How many other boarders will there be in your child’s Year? 
  • Make sure you visit the dormitories and common areas.  
  • Are these facilities modern and comfortable and are children able to personalise their space?  

If your child is a day pupil at a boarding school, ask if this changes the house system and other aspects of school life. Modern boarding schools offer so much these days, often day pupils get all the benefits as boarding pupils (without the additional fees). For parents that need the occasional childcare services flexi-boarding could be the perfect option. 



  • Does the school accept pupils of any faith?  
  • Does the school hold a daily assembly and, if so, is religion brought into the theme?  
  • Do all year groups attend assemblies?  
  • What role does religion play in the school’s curriculum and how is it taught 
  • Do the pupils sing hymns on a regular basis?  

Even schools that are considered non-denominational will sing hymns and deliver a religious service at varying times throughout the year. So, if you have any strong beliefs, you will need to ask the school what role religion plays in school life.  



  • Is there an entrance exam and what does it involve? 
  • What date is the next assessment day? 
  • Does the school operate a waiting list and is it first come, served? Or based on academic merit? 
  • How much does it cost to register your child? 
  • Do junior school pupils gain automatic entry into the senior school? 
  • Does the school require reports and sample work from a previous school?  

Finally, application and waiting lists cost money. However, it does make sense to put your child down on a couple of school waiting lists. Especially if they will need to pass an entrance exam to gain a place.  

Nursery, P1 and S1 years are key entry points. Schools may only have the odd space available in other year. Most schools automatically offer all nursery pupils a place in Primary 1. So, getting your child in early is always the best option! 


Many thanks to Nikki Miller, editor of the Nursery and Schools Guide Edinburgh, for her contribution to this blog. 


If you are considering teaching at or sending your child to a Scottish Independent School, the SCIS can help you with your search – use ourfind a schooltool orget in touchwith us today.