How to get the most out of parents’ evenings

Parents'evenings are a set time where you get a chance to sit down with your child’s teacher to talk about school work, your child’s progress and any support they need. Headteacher Paula Burgess gives us the lowdown on the important questions to ask…

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What is parents’ evening?

“Parents’ evening is really an opportunity for teachers to explain to the parents how their child is progressing and is also an opportunity for the parents to ask the teachers the questions they want to know the answers to,” explains Paula Burgess, headteacher at Bramley School in Surrey.

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How often do parents’ evenings take place?

Parents’ evenings take place twice in the school year, usually in the autumn and spring terms. Depending on your child’s school and age, you may get the choice for your child to go along with you to parent’s evening, which Paula advises you do if you get the option. However, for most primary schools, parent’s evenings are generally just for parents.

There are also other occasions throughout the school year for you to find out how your child is progressing at school, including reports and opportunities for children’s work to be shown.

What should you ask your child’s teacher about?

The point of parents’ evenings is for you to find out how your child is progressing and whether that rate of progress is good or not so good.

“If your child’s rate of progress is good, then you as a parent should ask what the school is going to do to support the progress and what you can do to help your child,” says Paula.

“If your child’s rate of progress is not so good, then you should ask what the school is going to do to help your child improve and what you, as parents, can do to help your child improve at home. You will also need to make sure that your child’s teachers inform you of the progress following the parent’s evening,” explains Paula.

Arrange a time to speak to the same teacher say a month or six weeks after parents’ evening to receive this feedback and to decide whether your child’s progress has improved.

Paula’s top five questions you should ask at parents’ evening are:

  1. How is my child progressing?
  2. What is the school doing to improve or maintain my child’s progress?
  3. What should I as a parent do to maintain or improve this progress?
  4. How does my child integrate with their peers? Are they happy?
  5. What are my child’s strengths?

“They are the sorts of questions that only a teacher can answer and that are extremely helpful for a parent to know,” says Paula.

Should you mention any problems you notice your child has at parents’ evening?

Paula advises that you don’t wait for parents’ evening to come around before you address any problems your child may have.

“Flag up any problems as and when they come up by arranging a meeting with the teacher(s) involved to discuss. I wouldn’t wait until parents’ evening as I would want the problem to be sorted straightaway,” Paula says.

However, if you notice anything just before a parents’ evening, then of course mention it.

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“Parent’s evening should be about the child’s progress and what parents can do to support their child. There should be no surprises. Any problems should have been ironed out before then, or at least begun to be sorted out,” adds Paula.

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