School Open Days don't have to be student recruitment drivers only


Open Days used to attract promising students

Many high schools are hosting their open days for those parents who are shopping around for schools. I am sure many of the parents and the students are excited about this pre- enrollment activity which is a necessity nowadays. Parents and their children trek from school to school, seeing what's on offer and then it's time to make application for placement at the school.


The atmosphere at these events is welcoming and child- friendly. Everybody is smiling and eager to assist. The high level of student participation also adds to the charm. Many of the students vie to be ushers or to man one of the many activity stations at the Open Days. The parents and their children often meet friends at these engagements which adds to the social networking.


All these scenes help to maximize the school's sales pitch which is geared to attract the most promising students and their parents who will help to bolster the school's record in the academic, sport, cultural and social spheres. You cannot deny the magnetic pull of this strategy to recruit the clientele to match your vision.

Interestingly, these open days are more prevalent amongst the better-resourced schools. Even the families who participate in these Open Day rituals are mainly middle-class families; those who can make the time to attend these functions and who have access to private transport. Those who don't have the time, money or transport cannot really participate. Even if the poor make sacrifices and arrange to get to these open days, they may find other barriers in their way; barriers like school fees, school cultures and intimidating spaces. It is often these socio-economic and cultural barriers that pose the biggest threat to those who also want to explore other options.


Open Days for recruitment don't work for all schools

The flip side of the coin is that there are many high schools - especially those that are situated in poor areas - that don't use the Open Day as a marketing strategy for learner recruitment.On the one hand, there is such a demand for placement at these schools from their communities that they can't really adopt a selection process. There is also the implicit inclusivity principle that operates in these schools. Whether they too, would have loved to embark on attracting a niche market, the reality is that all the children need to be accommodated anyway.

Use the Open Day concept for different events

However, there is a case for schools to consider the Open Day concept as part of their overall community-building programme. The secret is to package the open days as a series of interconnected school events with purpose. Isolated events do not have the same impact as multiple strategically- driven ones.

There are various planned Open Days that schools use to promote and involve parents in academic, sport and cultural activities over the course of the year. Because such events are usually free and the atmosphere informal and sociable, the whole school community can have loads of fun and forge closer relationships. It is important for schools to help break down the fears that many parents have about school.

Open Days that are socially-enabling and bridge-builders are powerful vehicles we can explore.


What are your thoughts about the Open Day concept?


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