School Receptions

You can tell a lot about what a school values by the difference between it’s public reception and it’s student reception.

How well staffed and furnished are they? How welcoming are they, and to whom? Where are they situated — in particular, do you walk up or down to get to them?

At my old school the public reception was a large, spacious lounge at the front of the building, with comfy chairs, coffee table books and several utterly pointless “multimedia installations”. It was up a short flight of stairs, and was extremely unwelcoming to students.

The student reception, by contrast, was down a flight of stairs at the back of the building. Capable of holding about five people, and helping one or two at a time, it was furnished with a door, a hole in the wall and some “don’t have sex” posters.

Parents typically never saw it. For students, it wasn’t much more welcoming than the main reception.

What did that school value more, up–selling to prospective parents, employees and government inspectors with flashy computer screens and house plants, or helping students deal with the inevitable problems which arise when you cram hundreds of hormonal teenagers into a campus?

Every now and again I would be picked to give prospective new students and parents a tour of the school. I wish I’d had the guts to point out these hypocritical moral imbalances (or perhaps I was too busy pointing out the taxonomic inaccuracies of the “starve the seagulls” anti–litter campaign. Ahem. Priorities.)

Look at the main reception of a school and assess the promises it makes. Then, find the place where students go for help, and assess the extent to which those promises are kept.