How to Get the Most Out of a Parents’ Evening

Kevin Clayton

Love them or hate them, parents’ evenings are an opportunity for you to sit down with a teacher and check out how your child is progressing. For both schools and parents there is always the challenge to get the most out of these kinds of sessions. It does however give parents and teachers a valuable opportunity to engage and work together to improve the education a child is receiving.

The Pros of Parents’ Evenings

  • They are a great way for parents to see how your school operates.
  • They can provide important feedback and allow parents and teachers to work from the same page in helping a child develop.
  • It’s an opportunity for parents to raise questions about the teaching of their child.

The Cons of Parents’ Evenings

  • They can often be rushed and parents may not get enough time with teacher to learn as much as they need.
  • Parents might not turn up or may be busy when the event is organised.

For Schools

Organisation is key to running a successful and meaningful parent evening. The main issues are generally the number of people, the time allotted to each appointment and what everyone gets out of this kind of contact. A number of things can impact on the success including the location and timing, the preparation of staff and the general organisation on the day.

Reviewing Your Parents’ Evening Process

You may have a time honoured process for running a parent evening but when was the last time that you reviewed it? Most events like this can be a fine balancing act between preparation and reaction to the current situation. Schools need to see things from the parents’ point of view. That means making the evening as ‘customer’ friendly as possible. Indeed, a number of schools are now moving away from the standard evening sessions to closing the school for the day and giving parents more time with each teacher.

Making Sure Staff Are Prepared

There can be nothing more frustrating for a parent than to meet with a teacher and find that they have little or no insight into their child and their progress apart from a set of marks and stats. Providing training for teaching staff who attend parent evenings is important and helps to maintain standards across the board. Preparation is key.

Is Queuing Really Good?

Despite everyone’s best efforts, parent evenings are generally pretty busy. Even if you have appointments, which most schools should by now, slots get delayed and you can end up with people waiting. Many parents work and are extremely busy and they don’t want to be kept waiting for long periods, so schools need to make sure they are managing this kind of event properly.

Use Your School App

If you have a school app it can be a great way to inform parents that a parents evening is coming up. You can use it to book appointments and to revise your timetable if certain parents can’t make it or have to cancel at the last minute. Most of us carry smartphones nowadays and that means you have greater opportunities to streamline your processes and make your parents’ evening go as smoothly as possible.

For Parents

If you are interested in your child’s education, then a parent evening is obviously important. It’s a chance for you to raise concerns and check out how your nearest and dearest is coping. Ideally both parents should attend the evening but this is not always possible. If you don’t feel confident going on your own, then there’s no harm in taking a friend or other member of the family to provide support.

Check with Your Child

You should always check with your child and ask if there are any questions or issues they would like you to raise with their teacher. Particularly if your child is struggling in one subject or another or has other problems with school it’s vital to talk things through with them and use that input to help find a solution.

Make a List of Questions

Many parents simply turn up at a parent evening and wing it but just as teachers should prepare, so should they. Go with a clear idea of the kinds of questions that you want to ask, particularly if there is an issue somewhere that needs to be addressed. You will only have a short time to talk to the teacher – which is one of the problems with these kinds of events – so it always pays to be prepared. Jot down some notes so that you stick to what you want to say rather than getting side-lined.

Focus on Your Child

Make sure that you focus only on your child and discuss them rather than going off the point. There’s no real benefit in talking about homework schedules or school uniform rules here. Time is too short. Most teachers anyway can’t have an impact on wider issues so keep it simple and keep it focused.

Timing and Patience

You may have a busy life and fitting in that parents’ evening is hard work. Most events like these tend to run behind schedule but you should make sure that you are there on time for your appointment. You will have to show a good degree of patience – even with the best organisation other people are late or take longer to talk to than the standard ten or fifteen minutes.

Be Open

Many parents can become defensive when it comes to their own children. Try to be as open as possible and give an insight of your child at home and what you think they are good at and what they need to work on. Teachers generally only see kids in the school environment so this form of communication can help them do their job better.

Run well, parents’ evenings can be an important way to gauge the progress of your child and develop plans for helping them move forward. For schools, using the latest technology and reviewing overall processes, while making sure teachers are prepared, can go a long way to achieving success. But parents also need to be prepared and ready to engage if they want to get the most out of an event such as this.