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Ensure Your Reception Area Makes a Great First Impression on School Visitors

February 8, 2018, 16:54 GMT+1
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  • The area of your school where you receive the public speaks volumes about the type of school you are, says Hilary Goldsmith...
Ensure Your Reception Area Makes a Great First Impression on School Visitors

Remember the old adage that says people make judgements about someone they’ve just met within two minutes of meeting them? The same is true of schools and their reception areas.

Reception is the first experience that visitors will have of your school, so it’s important to ensure that yours says everything you want it to say about who you are as a school, and how you treat the people within.

Take a walk from your front gates into your reception area, imagining that this is your first visit. While doing that, hold in your mind an image of the best reception in the world as a comparator. Then consider the following…


Is your Reception area clearly visible from the street, with appropriate signage and accurate directions? If there are steps, is there also a clear wheelchair route? If there’s a bell, who will answer it?

Is the reception desk obvious and easily accessible for all of your guests? Is there seating for visitors with mobility issues, and clear, pictorial signage for those with language or visual difficulties? Are there hearing loops and translation services available – and if so, how will your visitors know?


Every school will have it’s own ethos, either written in the form of a vision statement, or as a strapline. Look closely at your Reception area - does it send the same message? Is it a learning environment? Are your school’s expectations clear from the front door onwards? Is your Safeguarding policy actively in operation? Is your treatment of your students reflected in the treatment of your visitors?

Meet and greet

What of your receptionist? Are they seated at a front-facing desk, ready and able to greet visitors as they arrive? Or are they hidden away behind a glass hatch, looking too busy to be disturbed while juggling a myriad of other tasks? Try not to make your visitors feel like they’re intruding into an office space and being a burden. Welcome them in, greet them warmly and be proud and pleased that they’ve come to your school.

Look your best

Reception is your school’s showroom, so is the physical space the best that it can be? Is it clean, fragrant and clutter-free, rather than a dumping ground for abandoned parcels and lost PE kits? Is the information on display accurate, up-to-date, timely and easily accessible? Is any student data securely stored away and not visible? Is your signing-in process efficient, obvious and easy to understand? Are your evacuation and child protection protocols visible and made clear to all?

And finally…

Having viewed your reception as a visitor, turn around and go back out again. Your visitors will take away with them a final image of your school as they leave, so be sure to check that their outgoing journey is as positive and friendly an experience as their journey in.

Hilary Goldsmith is director of finance at a secondary school in Brighton