Just how welcoming is your school?
Many mission statements and visions contain something about an ‘Open Door’ approach but just how welcoming is your school?
Often the first message about a school is seen a few miles away as people approach it either by car or foot.
- Can it be seen from whichever mode of transport people are using?
- Is it clear to someone who knows nothing about your site or where it is?
Once inside the gate:
- Is information presented simply?
- If you have a gate that has to be opened from the building, is there always someone to answer the buzzer?
- Is there parking and if so how will drivers know where it is? If parking isn’t available, where will people go and is that clear from the drive? Having to get out of your car, go into the building to find out the information and then park your car can be very off-putting.
The staff in reception are your front of house. Do they put on a first class performance or can they be discourteous? I am sure it is not intended but they are the first port of call for visitors and it is vital that they receive them in a polite and welcoming way.
For instance, they shouldn’t assume that visitors know the procedures for signing in. Nowadays, schools are moving away from a sign-in book to an electronic record which needs a screen to be touched to input your details. This can be quite intimidating for those who do not visit schools often.
Once inside, don’t forget your visitors. If the person they are meeting has been delayed, keep them informed and do check that they are OK. Some reception areas can be drafty places!
Develop the right culture
Visitors to a school are everyone’s responsibility. The world is a very scary place we know, but many schools can feel like prisons with electronic gates, passes and restrictions. Once your visitor has passed these tasks it is down to everyone to make them feel welcome.
- Smile and say hello
- Check they know where they are going
- If you see someone in a room on their own, ask if they are OK and if possible help. They probably shouldn’t be on their own so just check.
What if they were paying?
One way to test your approach to visitors and to see just how welcoming your school is, is to imagine they were paying visitors. If they were going to pay you for being there, would your approach be different? Hopefully not but it is worth making sure that your Open Door is a reality and not just something in the prospectus!