The teacher's home visit: everything you need to know
Before your child even starts primary school, it's likely they'll get a home visit from their new teacher. But what happens at these meetings? What questions will you be asked? And how should you prepare?
If your child is soon due to start Reception or P1 at a state primary school, you may find you get a letter about arranging a home visit from their teacher.
Although it's not compulsory, many state schools have adopted a home-visit policy – because it's a useful way to help your child's teacher get to know your child – and you. And it's also a good opportunity to exchange information, away from all the hustle and bustle of the school playground.
When do the teacher home visits take place?
Most schools try to schedule the visits for the summer before your child is due to start school. But sometimes, they'll happen in September, shortly before or after the school term starts.
If your child's school has a home-visit policy, you will be sent a letter about it. The letter will probably suggest a date and time for the visit and ask you to fill in and return a reply slip, either confirming the date and time or asking to reschedule. If you really don't want the teacher coming to your home – or, for whatever reason – it's just not possible or practical, you should be able to request a meeting at the school instead.
What's the point of teacher home visits?
The home visit is really all about getting to know your child a little, telling you a bit more about the school set-up – and giving you an opportunity to speak confidentially about your child’s needs and development.
It's also an opportunity for your child's teacher to start to establish a relationship with your child, and hopefully means your child recognises, and is reassured by, a “friendly face” when school starts.
As Charlie F, a mum – and teacher – in our Facebook community says,
The main purpose of the visit is to introduce ourselves to the child before they start with us. It’s to have a friendly chat, have a little play and cover any questions the parents have in a relaxed atmosphere. And it's all a bit less daunting for the child when this is done in their own environment.
"Children are often keen to show us their toys," adds Charlie F, "which can then be a great talking point for us when the child starts school – and we can use that to help to distract them a little if they ever become upset."
What can I expect at a teacher home visit?
Don't worry: it's all pretty informal.
First of all, it's worth knowing that your child's teacher with almost certainly come along with a colleague. "We go in 2s," says Charlie F. "One of us does most of the talking with the parent, and the other interacts with the child."
Your child's teacher will probably bring along some leaflets and handouts/information packs about the school and its policies. They will also probably need to fill out a form with basic information about your child, such as the language they speak at home, their eating habits, and which toys and books they like.
The teacher may also ask you questions that will help the school prepare for your child's arrival, such as, "Does your child need any support using the toilet, eating independently or putting on and taking off clothes?" or "Does your child have any allergies or medical conditions that we need to be aware of?"
Do you need to prepare for the teacher home visit?
So far it doesn't sound too bad, does it? But what do you need to do to be ready for the visit? Do you need to make sure the house is neat and tidy?
Absolutely not, says Charlie F. "We honestly aren’t there to look at how tidy the house is. We are happy to see played-with toys and we really don’t care if you have piles of ironing."
In fact, many schools actively advise teachers not to note anything about the parent's house. Guidance for home visits issued by Barnet council in London, for example, explicitly says: "Avoid commenting on a child’s home or provision, so that parents do not feel that any judgement is being made on their home or lifestyle."
The only prep that Charlie F recommends is making sure your child knows what's going to be happening. "Talk in a positive way to your child about their teacher coming," she says, "and maybe get them to choose a favourite game or toy to show them, just so they have something to share.
"I know many parents worry beforehand, thinking we will judge – and, as I'm a parent before I'm a teacher, I’ve felt exactly the same. But we aren’t really looking for or at anything as such. It’s just to meet the family."