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How can you get the most out of parents’ evening?

As I have parents’ evening coming up for both my youngest and eldest child, it prompted me to offer some guidance to parents about how to get the most out of it. Despite being an experienced teacher with a solid understanding of how the education system works, I can still find parents’ evening for my own children to be quite a stressful and frustrating experience!  Even getting there on time after work is a stress.

Most schools now have an appointments system but having only a 5 or 10 minutes slot, once or if you are lucky twice a year, to discuss something as vital as your child’s progress at school is really not sufficient. The evening is often conducted in a large hall with lots of other parents and when you finally get your moment you can feel the queue of irate parents behind you waiting for their turn!!!!

One key point is there should be no big surprises at parents’ evening. If you have any concerns about your child be it academic or a social/emotional issue, don’t leave it until parents’ evening to raise it with your child’s teacher. Teachers also should not wait till then if they have any serious concerns about your child.

For my younger two children at primary school, I always ask them before I go whether there is anything they want me to ask or mention to the class teacher. For my older two at secondary school, they now get to come along too which is very helpful as they can hear first- hand what the teacher has to say and respond there and then. In preparation we have a chat before about how they feel they are progressing in each subject and what they predict the teachers may have to say about them. Sometimes there is a considerable discrepancy between their perception and the teachers!   That may be because the teacher hasn’t communicated sufficiently with your child.

Write down your questions before you go. I would also always advise taking notes so you have a record of exactly what has been said. I also like to refer back to this when the end of year report comes to check it is in line with what the teachers previously said.

Many parents want to know how their child is progressing in relation to their classmates. Schools are now far more politically correct and most no longer have the old school practice of giving children positions within the class! Teachers can be reluctant to tell you whether your child is average, below or above. Receiving a level or being told whether you child is below or above the national average may also not be particularly helpful.

Remember if you don’t feel you had enough time to address a particular concern or issue, you are perfectly entitled to set up a further appointment with the teacher or see the head of year or head of department if necessary.

Key questions to ask at parents’ evening…….

  • Which subjects and aspects of learning is my child good at?
  • Which subjects does my child find challenging?
  • How can I support my child’s learning at home?
  • What type of learner is he – auditory, visual, kinaesthetic?
  • Is my child working at an appropriate level for her age? What is his position in the class?
  • How willing is my child to participate in class?
  • Does my child make friends easily and interact with classmates?
  • Do you think my child is happy at school?
  • What is her attitude/approach to work? Level of confidence and self-esteem?
  • What is my child’s behaviour like at school?
  • How long should my child be spending on homework? How much input do you expect from parents? Should all homework be completed independently?