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Virtual Tours

A project developed in response to Covid-19 to support parents and children with starting reception.


Head Teachers / School Leaders, Local Authorities, School Teachers, Settings & Early Years Practitioners, Trusts

Aimed at

Early Years Foundation Stage, KS1, KS2, KS3


Community Support, Early Years, School Readiness, Transition


Student/Family Support

Why was the project needed?

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions, many children transitioning from nursery to reception class in 2020 were not able to undertake ‘normal’ transition activities such as a visit to their new school. This meant that, in many cases, these children (and their parents) were also unable to meet their new class teachers and get to know other members of the school community. Naturally, this lack of preparation could leave children feeling anxious about starting school in September, which could then lead onto increased behavioural and emotional need at the time. This project’s aim was to help alleviate some of this anxiety by providing children and families with the means to take a virtual tour of their new school and virtually meet some of their key staff.

What happened and what was the impact?

We chose to work with Insight UK, a Norwich based interactive virtual tour specialist, to create virtual tours of our Norwich Primary Schools. These virtual tours combined the use of photography, videography and 3D Matterport technology to create an engaging and immersive experience that allowed both parent and child to virtually walk around their new school environment and meet some of their teachers. Within the tours, Insight UK captured key areas of interest such as the Reception classrooms, the school office, the outdoor provision and the library, and then embedded short interviews with key members of staff welcoming new families to the school. These virtual tours were then shared with families via the school’s website, the Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA) website and the local authority, between July 2020 and the start of term. All the virtual tours created can be accessed in the resource section of this page.

The NOA team worked closely with Insight UK to create a shared vision of the virtual tours. We were conscious that the tours had to meet the needs of the parent(s), the children and the schools, therefore careful planning was required to ensure we met our brief. 

Once the vision had been established and the timescales discussed, expressions of interest were gathered from eligible Norwich Primary Schools in spring 2020. 18 Primary Schools opted to sign up to this project and from here, each school was contacted by Insight UK to arrange a time for filming. Each virtual tour planned to capture the school’s reception classrooms, outdoor provision, school office and communal areas (such as a hall or library), the schools were advised in advance on the best ways to get these spaces ready. 

Filming typically took place over two sessions; one session for the 3D Matterport filming where the areas to be filmed needed to be free of children and adults, and a second session for the staff interviews, which usually took place in a classroom. During the interview, all headteachers and class teachers were asked similar questions to ensure some consistency across the project. Nevertheless, where the school had something unique that they wanted to include, this was also encouraged.

After the filming had been pieced together, Insight UK worked with each school to add in a series of media tags to their virtual tour. These media tags appear as small coloured circles in the tour that give the user more information and help them to navigate the space. For example, schools used media tags to label different areas of the classroom (“this is the book corner”), to give directions to another room (“go down this corridor to return to the school entrance”), or to host one of the interviews on. On some media tags, we also chose to add in a voice over of a child saying what was written on the tag e.g. “This is the role play area where we pretend to be other people!”. This addition of a voice-over provided a nice child-friendly touch and made the media tags accessible to parents with poor literacy skills. 

Once the virtual tours had been finished and signed off by all involved, the schools were encouraged to upload their tour to their school website and promote it to their prospective families. The NOA also uploaded the tours to their website and worked with the EDP, a local paper with an online presence, to further promote the virtual tour resources to families in the area. 

The NOA decided to extend the project for summer 2021 and invited primary schools who hadn’t yet taken part, as well as Infant Schools and Early Years settings to participate in the project. All resources were promoted in summer Term 2021 to support with transition into new settings in September 2021. 

What did and didn't work?

Virtual Tours are an excellent resource for children and parents to support with Early Years Transition; particularly when normal face to face transition activities were unable to go ahead. 

The levels of interest in this project, and the subsequent feedback we have received since, surpassed our initial expectations. Schools and settings have been blown away with the high-quality of their virtual tour, with one headteacher suggesting that “this is the best project [he’s] ever been involved with”. We collected feedback from 21 schools and settings who filled out a Virtual Tour Survey and these are some of the comments we received: 

Peapod Pre-School Nursery 

The children come in looking for particular areas that they have seen and feel familiar with the setting as a whole. As a preschool it is often the first time the children have been left somewhere new. This tour alleviates the worry of the unknown and lets them discover the setting together as a family from the safety of their homes. They can discuss it without distractions or having the parents having to talk to staff. Parents really enjoyed the tour. Many had no idea that we had such a big play area at the back and chose our setting after seeing the tour. 

Chestnut Nursery at St Giles 

Before our pre-schoolers left for school this year, we were able to find their school’s virtual tour and show them so that they felt comfortable with what to expect. Parents love them. It gives them a chance to see inside and what opportunities we offer to children. 

Lakenham Primary School 

Parents have loved it. It has been shared widely and many parents who have started felt they “knew” the school better because of the tour. Thank you for supporting this! 

West Earlham Junior School 

Children felt familiar with the internal space before they arrived. If families have the technology to view the school and the virtual tour then it has had an impact in supporting the families to talk through transitioning to a new school and visualising themselves in a new space. The Virtual Tour definitely offers a great way for families to look at the school and enables them to familiarise themselves with the classrooms etc. at their own pace. We will definitely include and promote the link again next year. Thank you for your time and support in creating a wonderful virtual tour for our school. It was a great experience and we really love the final product. 

The creation of a virtual tour requires a lot of planning, discussion and back and forth between the company, the school and the project coordinator therefore it is important to be aware of this when planning your timescales, particularly for a large project. It is also important to clarify whether your virtual tour will incur any ongoing costs such as ‘hosting fees’ as a result of the technology used. If there are additional fees to be paid for example on a yearly basis, it’s vital to consider whether that is viable for the school or setting who will incur this on-going charge.

Lastly, a virtual tour is only useful if it is an accurate representation of the space as it is in the present day. Therefore, due consideration needs to be given to ‘future-proofing’ virtual tours to make them last and stay relevant for as long as possible. In the case of a virtual tour for a school, consider whether videos of teachers can easily be taken out or media tags changed if needed. 

How did you measure success?

The success of this project to date has been measured by the number of views the virtual tours have had over the 2020/21 transition period. Between July and September 2020, this equated to 14,100 views. In 2021/22 the same virtual tours were re-promoted alongside our new 34 new tours, and further data will be gained. 

We carried out a Virtual Tour Survey that was filled out by 21 schools involved in the Virtual Tour project and received the following feedback: 

  • 100% of respondents were pleased or extremely pleased with their finished virtual tour resource. 
  • Over 85% of respondents believe that the virtual tour has had a positive impact on children’s school/setting readiness. 
  • Over 90% of respondents believe that the virtual tour has helped new children and families to feel less anxious about starting at their school/setting. 
  • Over 85% of respondents think that children and families feel more comfortable about what to expect when they start at their school/setting as a result of the virtual tour.


Ingredients For Success

Commissioning a reputable and innovative virtual tour company with the technological and organisational skills needed to produce and coordinate a virtual tour project to the project brief. Having the full cooperation of the school or setting and their staff.

Is the Project Complete or Ongoing

The NOA Virtual Tours project is now complete.

How is the Project Sustainable

Once the virtual tours have been created, the only ongoing costs that schools have to pay is a £30 per year ‘hosting fee’ to keep their technology active. For most schools, this cost is small enough to be viable, which makes the project sustainable but where this is unaffordable (for example, in a small nursery setting), the project may need to consider an alternative long-term funding arrangement e.g., Local Authority funding. 

The tours are only sustainable for as long as the tour is an accurate representation of the space depicted. Therefore, schools who wanted to be a part of this project were encouraged to think about this before having their environments filmed. 

What are the Long Term Impacts

We hope that the virtual tours created will continue to provide an excellent resource for children and parents to support with Early Years Transition in Norwich. We also hope the project will inspire schools and settings in other areas to explore this as an option. 

Estimated Costs

Each virtual tour cost £795 to produce but there are also future hosting fees of £30 per year, per school.

The virtual film allowed the opportunity for children and their families to get to know the staff at Norwich Primary Academy. The scariest thing for parents and children is often the unknown, so this really helped parents to feel at ease and children to know who their teachers were. The tour also allowed the children and parents to get a sense of what the school was like, to see basic things such as where they will eat lunch, where they will play and where the main reception is.  

We found that the tour reduced anxiety for our children and this plus a tour on their first day meant that the children settled into school quickly and felt at ease on day one.

Rebecca Handley-Kirk, Headteacher, Norwich Primary Academy

Area Most Impacted


School Readiness

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

Virtual Tour - Magdalen Gates Primary

A team came in and worked with us to take high resolution 3 dimensional images and record videos with our Head and Reception teachers. We placed these on the front page of our website and were very pleased to be able to show our environment off to everyone.

Virtual Tour - Mile Cross Primary School

When we were offered the chance to film a virtual tour of reception, this was an amazing opportunity to share our school with new children and parents in a safe way. We organised this for our nursery children too.

Virtual Tour - Norwich Primary Academy

We were lucky to be chosen to have a virtual tour to support transition into our new reception cohort in September 2020 after lockdown number 1. We worked with Insight UK who produced the virtual tour for us.

Next steps to do something similar yourself

These are a list of Big Idea resources that you can use to implement in your setting:

Please find below a link to all the NOA funded welcome videos and virtual tours, which will help children get used to their new school environment:

Here is a guide produced by Insight UK to support schools and settings to make the most of their virtual tour:

Watch our webinar that has advice for schools on how to use, market and promote your NOA funded tour to parents:

View and download the Virtual Tours postcard:

Watch our webinar to hear about resources, information and virtual tours created by NOA to support parents:

Read the EEF Guidance Report on Social and Emotional Learning here

Read a Norwich Evening News article on virtual tours:

Champions and contacts

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