How to redesign parent-teacher evenings


Over the course of 10 weeks between April and June, The Teachers Guild and the RSA invited educators from across the globe to come together and reimagine better parent-teacher evenings.

Over 19 countries took part and 184 people made contributions. PTA UK came on board to offer the parent voice to the collaboration. In our April member newsletter we invited you to take a simple survey about your thoughts of parent-teacher evenings and this is what you said…

What three words would you use to describe parent evenings?

What was your favourite and worst parent-teacher interaction?

Favourite - 5 key themes

Worst - 5 key themes

Relaxed meetings: Quick chats before lessons start, or impromptu chat at a social event, meeting away from parents evening, no time pressure, classroom based demonstration of work, stories about my child’s social and emotional wellbeing, speaking at the door in the mornings, catching a teacher in a quiet moment. Unprepared teachers: Teacher wasn't organised - When the teacher answered "I'd need to check about that" to nearly every question I posed. With a supply teacher who didn't know my child.
Information specific to my child: Finding out how well my child is doing in spellings and maths. When one of my daughter's teachers obviously knew my child and was proud of her achievements and development. When a teacher praised my child for his determination and enthusiasm. When a teacher told me something individual to my child, could describe the child I knew. Where the teacher spoke to the child rather than us. We were given time to ask questions. Generic responses: Parents evening when I didn't feel the teacher actually knew who my son was. Teacher saying "I have nothing really to say as everything seems fine". Teacher not realising that my child had been absent from class the day before when I asked if he had missed anything important. Reading from a list of results with no explanation.
Appropriate setting: Sitting at adult sizes tables with my child's work in front of us. Talking though relevant points to her as an individual as opposed to a score/level on a sheet.Feeling condescended to: Being told off, homework book thrust at me, asking if I knew what my 9 year old had written. Sitting in a tiny chair, faced with a teacher who had absolutely nothing to say about my child apart from "she's doing fine".
Supporting how to help at home: When I am told, constructive ways of helping my children to succeed. Sharing of lesson material to use at home.Distrust between teacher/parents: Kept asking teacher questions about progress as they were not forthcoming. My child’s teacher did not give me eye contact and then cut me off saying they were looking for someone, apologised half-heartedly and left. When a teacher gets defensive if you are trying to clarify something.
Informal ways to meet: Meeting at social events. A quick chat in playground after pick up. Chatting in class while doing an activity. Joining in on a school cleaning day. Working on stalls together at fetes and fairs.Rushed: One that was rushed, levels thrust at us and just told everything was OK

If you could change anything about parents evening what would it be?

“The insights of PTA UK members were an important part of this collaboration. They provided us a detailed understanding of the parent perspective and brought to the surface themes, ideas and emotions that were not explored elsewhere. Many of the solutions that have emerged from the collaboration have drawn directly on these insights in their design”
Thomas Gilliford, RSA.


The final favourites voted for by the contributors and mentors in the programme often reflected your concerns around the need for more informal meetings, trust building, equal relationships, relaxed setting – bigger chairs!!! Now the teachers who took part are working to look at how they can implement these and scale some up to a wider audience.

Take a look at some of the ideas here. You may recognise the work that your PTA already does to encourage good parent/teacher relationships in some of these!

Student Led Icebreaker Quiz: How Well Do You Know Us? (UK)
Students often feel 'subjected' to events such as Parent Teacher Conferences. This fun icebreaker aims to turn the experience on its head. Try the icebreaker out for yourself and feedback your views.

Tapas and talk - a time for sharing (Australia)
Small group tapas discussions with parents and students. Almost like dinner for 8 but with focused conversations co-created via the menu.

Guideposts to Success (USA)
Promote opportunities for parents & teachers to communicate informally prior to & after conferences to make more meaningful partnerships.

Multiple Moments of Meeting (UAE)
Instead of focusing on 'an' evening, we want to create Multiple Moments to include all styles throughout the year.

Goodbye report card, hello Learning Infographic (USA)
Let's leverage the power of images and purposeful graphics to capture AND inspire a conversation on learning rather than a talk about grades.

Student-Led Instead of Parent-Teacher Dread (USA)
Students should have the opportunity to have a say so in their learning and discuss their strengths, weaknesses, and career goals!

Learning journey (Australia)
Students share how their thinking has changed, their roadblocks, and the journey of their learning.

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