Parent teacher evenings – your school might call them parent teacher consultations – are a fantastic opportunity for you to get involved with your kids’ school.
Schools usually hold them in the autumn and spring terms. The autumn term meeting is ideal for building relationships with your kids’ teachers. The spring term meeting is best for picking up areas for development before the end of the school year.
In secondary school the format changes, with more teachers to meet (and more parents) sessions can seem quite rushed and hectic. But they’re a great opportunity for you and your child to talk to the teacher together, so it’s important to prepare in advance to really make the most of the short window of time you get.
Here are our tips for getting the best from your parent teacher evening.
Prepare in advance.
Remember that you’re not going to get very long to talk to the teachers. If you are prepared you are more likely to have a successful meeting.
Talk to your kids before the meeting. Find out if there's anything they'd like to discuss or understand more about. How do they feel about school and their teachers?
Make notes. You’ve not got long. Don’t risk forgetting a key question. Write down your questions, or areas you want to discuss and refer to your notes at your meeting.
Don’t forget to listen. It's very easy to get caught up in the moment asking questions. Listen to what the teachers are telling you.
Don’t try to cover everything. Stick to asking questions about the things that are most important to you and your kids.
Make an appointment. Your school may insist that you make a timed appointment to meet your kids’ teachers. If they don’t, ask if you can make one. Then arrive in plenty of time so that you can look at any schoolwork before your meeting.
Primary school meetings
You get a little more time with your kids’ teachers at primary school, but it is unlikely to be more than ten minutes so you still need to prepare.
Some schools like your children to come with you (particularly as they reach Years 5 and 6), others prefer to just speak to parents. Ask what’s the norm, and if you have a strong preference yourself let the teacher know. Either way it shouldn’t be a problem.
Scondary school meetings
Your kids will have different teachers for each subject, and possibly a form teacher as well. So you will have several short meetings with different teachers. It’s almost certain that you won't be able to meet with all their subject teachers in one evening, so prioritise meeting with the teachers of the subjects that your kids either struggle with, or show great promise in.
These meetings will be short, maybe five minutes each, so it is important to prepare well.
Some questions you could ask
What are my kids most engaged with? Which classroom activities have resulted in your kids making the most progress? And which approaches to learning do they respond to best?
What can I do to help? The things you do with your kids at home support the learning they do at school. What else could you do to make things better for your kids?
What have been my kids’ big successes this term? And what are the big challenges for the future? If your kids are not at the meeting make sure you report successes back to them.
Do my kids make friends easily? Are they happy at school? Are they engaged with the staff and the other children?
Can we keep in touch? Regular short contact with teachers will greatly benefit you and your kids.
At the meeting
Get there in good time. If there are examples of your kids’ work to look at, it will be better if you have seen it before you talk to the teachers. You may also be able to see other kids’ work, which you may find helpful.
Make it a two-way conversation. Read your kids’ school reports and schoolwork before you go. Make a note of what you like or what concerns you and bring it up with the teachers.
It’s about your kids.You may be unhappy with government education policy, or the way that the school is run but this is not the time to bring it up.
Don’t forget the social side. There’s more to school than learning. Ask about your kids’ social life at school.
Take notes at the meeting. Write down what you hear so you can remind yourself later of what you heard.
Be patient. You might have to wait longer than you would like, but it will be worth it. You will have had a long and tiring day, but so will the teachers.
After the meeting
Don’t wait to discuss big issues. If your kids are struggling with a subject, or having difficulties at school bring them up with teachers as they arise. It’s better for you, your kids and the teacher if problems are addressed early.
Keep up contact. Ask how you can support your kids at school. Ask how you can stay in touch with teachers. Get their email addresses. Find out if you can pop in to see them for a chat.
Involve your kids
Talk to your kids before and after the meeting. Let them know how it went if they weren’t there. Or discuss it with them if they were. Are they happy with how it went? Is there something you can work on together to make their lives at school better?