Parents’ Evening – a guide for parents

Parents’ evening!  Does it make you feel nervous?  Does it bring up old memories of your own school days?  Are you worried about what the teacher may say or what you should ask?

Fear not!  I’ll fill you in on what you need to know to reduce the parents’ evening anxiety.

Things to know about parents’ evening:

Schools must provide at least one opportunity a year for parents to discuss their child’s progress with a teacher.  Most schools hold two parents’ evenings a year – one in the autumn term and one in the spring or summer term.

For primary school children, and children in Year 7, the autumn meeting should focus on how they are settling into their new year group and class and if they are happy and content at school.  If they are, then they should be learning well, if not, then that will impact their progress, and discussing strategies that will help them both at home and school should take place. 

Remember that your child’s teacher is on your side.  They want your child to do well and be happy at school as much as you do.  They will give you positive feedback and if there are any areas of concern, these will be raised in a professional manner with a view on how to help resolve them in the best way for your child.

It is fine to bring your children (and any siblings) into the meeting with you, but you don’t have to (sometimes the children prefer for you to go in without them – so do check).

Dos and Don’ts of parents’ evening:

DO ask how they have settled in and if they seem happy at school. Hopefully, the teacher will tell you this anyway and you won’t need to ask.

DO ask about any routines or procedures (eg homework systems) that you are unsure of, or are causing difficulties at home.  If the teacher is aware, then they can help solve any problems.

DO let the teacher know if anything is happening that may affect your child’s learning – this could be friendship issues or things happening at home.  Personal issues will be treated confidentially and sensitively, but it is important for the school to be aware so they can best support your child.

DO ask how you can help your child with their learning at home. 

DO be aware of the time – your appointment will be around 10 minutes long.

DO look at any work your child has done if books are laid out.

DO raise any concerns you have politely and with a view to working together to solve them.  Going in angry and all-guns-blazing will not get you the results you want.

DON’T ask how your child compares to others in the class.  The teacher can’t give you this information and it’s not helpful to you anyway.  Focus on your child – no one else’s.

DON’T compare your child to their siblings.  They are a person in their own right.  Just because their older brother did something well, or struggled with something, it doesn’t mean their sibling will too.  Treat each child individually.

DON’T tell the teacher how to do their job.  Paying your taxes which pays their salary does not make you their boss. (Yes, I have had parents say this!) You are there to get their professional input on your child’s learning. Listen to them and take on board their advice and suggestions.

DO go!  It may be scary, it may take up time, and it may interfere with your daily routine, but it is once or twice a year and it honestly has a huge impact on your child’s learning.  As a teacher, I have understood the children in my class so much better, and been able to better meet their individual needs due to meeting their parents and discussing how best to help them at parents’ evening.  If you can’t make the scheduled parent’s evening, it is absolutely fine to make an appointment with the teacher for another time.  If you can’t go to both parents’ evenings, attending just one is better than none.

If you are separated from your child’s other parent, then it is fine to make separate appointments for you to see your child’s teacher individually.

It is also OK to bring your child’s step-parent, grandparent or aunt or uncle along to the meeting if you would like to have someone else with you.

DO say thank you at the end of the meeting.  My job-share teacher and I were once presented with a bag of mixed fruit and nuts at the start of a meeting by a mum because she knew we were having a very long day, with little to no time for breaks or refreshments between appointments.  It blew our minds!  It was such a small act of kindness but made a massive difference and kept us going into the evening.  Gifts like this are not necessary or expected, but two little words that show you understand how much that teacher does to help your child goes a long way. It is common courtesy but so many parents don’t bother. 

If you have found this blog helpful, then do come and join my free Facebook group Primary Matters for more help and advice about learning in the vital primary years.

To discuss how I can help support your child’s learning, please see my services or contact me.

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