Friday, 4 December 2009

SPECIAL REPORT: Parents Evenings-Do you Know How Your Childs Doing?

You may have seen this covered in the news, but it appears that a new survey reveals the shocking truth that Parents Evenings are not the use to parents we would imagine them to be.

On average, UK parents spend 13 minutes with their child's class teacher, leaving 55% with little insight into their child's academic progress. When a third of parents are only invited to one of these evenings a year, can a parent really be equipped to help their child improve at home?

Further survey findings included that over three quarters of parents do not prepare for the conference by preparing questions, whilst 57% say they would prefer to receive an electronic  reports instead of having informal chats. And one third don't get a chance to see their child's work whilst at the meeting.

The most surprising figures showed that  two thirds of parents don't attend at all as the time of the meetings is inconvenient, and over a third of UK Dads admit they have never attended a parents evening, leaving their partners to attend on both parents behalf.

So what can be done to rectify this seeming lack of knowledge?

Dr Janine Spencer, Child Development Specialist at Brunel University has joined up with LeapFrog to give a comprehensive guide for getting themost out of those 13 minutes.

Tip 1 Write a list of questions
The best way to find out how you're child is doing is to ask questions, so Dr Janine suggests that parents have a prewritten list of important questions, such as asking what are their strongest and weakest subjects, and what work could be done at home to help them improve.

Tip 2 Have a clear outline of what you want to get out of the discussion
Stemming from the questions suggested above, Dr Janine also suggests a parent writes down each topic that their child studies, so as they can quiz the teacher on their child's attainment and strengths and weaknesses in each subject area. Decide in advance what you want to learn from the discussion-its a great way of knowing what help you can give to aid further improvement at home.

Tip 3 Take notes
It may only be a short period that you spend with the teacher, but its easy to forget some of the points raised. If you have your pre-written questions with you, you'll have a notepad anyway-bring a pen and jot down important points to read back later- especially if your partner who is one of the third who don't attend with you! Its also a good way of making sure you understand what is being said-that way if the teacher asks if you have any further questions, and they have brought something up in discussion you are unsure of, its easy to refer to your notes.

Tip 4 Talk to your Child
It may seem obvious, but it's vital you find out any concerns your child may have, that you can raise with a teacher. Some children may be struggling with a certain subject, but this may not have been picked up on by their teacher-this is the ideal opportunity to raise the issue at hand. After the conference, speak again with your chlild giving constructive feedback, and praise too where appropriate.

Tip 5 Leave the Kids at home!
Plan ahead for the day of the conference, and where possible leave the children with your partner or better still a babysitter. Having the children with you will distract you-you need to be able to focus on the feedback you are being given, and how this affects your child. You need to be able to concentrate fully so youcan go through it with the child at home. If you can't leave the children at home, ask an older child or relative to sit outside the room with them.

Tip 6 Don't be late
You may only get a few minutes with the teacher, so don't waste it- if you are late this will be taken from your allotted time, so don't waste any of it!

Tip 7 Ask to see examples of your child's work
Its vital that you get to see their work, as it will help you absorb the points being made. Some schools will allow parents a chance to see their child's work prior to meeting the teacher, so use the time to see if anything concerns you compared to others work in the same class.

Tip 8 Be prepared for positives and negatives
Whilst it's difficult to hear negativity being voiced about our child, we all know they are not perfect, so be prepared to use the negatives to their advantage to help the child improve. Listen carefully to what the teacher says, however hard it is!

Tip 9 Request next steps from the teacher
To help you streamline your child's development, ask the teacher for some ideas of next steps to help improvement.This could be recommendations for games or books for use at home, that the child will find fun whilst helping them make educational progress. One idea is to use the Leapfrog online Learning path, which is free to use and can be set depending on your child's age and attainment.

Tip 10 Put Yourself in the teachers shoes
When considering questions to ask and feedback, its important to remember that the teacher has your child's best interests at heart, and that they are an important part of your child's day to day life. They want to work with you to make sure your child gets the most out of their education.

Hopefully, if we all follow these tips, we can improve our childs' educational progress for the better, and be more confident when speaking with a class teacher too.


  1. Great advice, although - as a former teacher - I'm a tad disappointed that professional communicators (which my ex-colleagues are supposed to be) can't make those precious minutes more productive...

  2. This is a very informative and worthwhile post. Parents Evenings can be a nightmare for some parents, especially if they know little about what their kids are doing at school. I got 10 minutes with Amy's class teacher and it was a complete waste of time. Amy's autistic and I needed a good hour to discuss progress and a way forward so I ended up arranging a meeting with the Headmistress the following week to talk about things that were more important than being told that "Amy is doing really well".

    Excellent post. CJ xx

  3. Time with the teachers is really short. They seem to tell you so much, but little opportunity to ask questions. That cartoon made me laugh.

    I the blog look - not fussy at all. Perhaps there are people who spend too much time fussing!!!

    Love RMxx

  4. Thanks hun, nice of you to say so xx


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