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7 ways to get the best out of parents' evening

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Does your mind go blank as soon as you sit down with your child’s teacher? Lucy Dimbylow offers expert tips on making the most of parents’ evening.

1. Arrange childcare

Parents’ evening is a rare opportunity to have a frank discussion about your child’s progress, and those conversations are easier without a little eavesdropper hovering nearby.

“Having your child with you can be distracting and get in the way of an honest dialogue between you and the teacher, so avoid taking them if possible,” says John Coe, a former primary head teacher and chair of the National Association for Primary Education.

2. Talk to your child

Before parents’ evening, ask your child if there’s anything they want you to mention. “It’s important that school and home work together, so if your child has concerns about something that’s happening at school, their teacher should know about it,’ notes John.

3. Make notes in advance

If your mind goes blank as soon as you enter the classroom, jot down any specific questions you want to ask. “Making notes about the things you want to discuss will refresh your memory, but keep it brief, sticking to two or three key points,” suggests John. You'll find some great examples of questions you might want to ask in our checklist, 8 questions you must ask your child's teacher.

4. Get up to date with their work

“If you receive a school report or have an opportunity to look at your child’s work, go through it thoroughly and make a note of anything that concerns you, or that you’re particularly pleased with,” says teacher Louise Crocker. “This will provide the foundation for a two-way conversation, rather than expecting the teacher to talk at you.”

5. Focus on your child

Parents’ evening is not the place to discuss policies. “If you have issues with the school’s approach to homework or phonics teaching, take them up with the head teacher or the governors, not the teacher,” John advises. “Make your child – not the school – the focus of your meeting.”

6. Don’t store up big issues

Whether your child is struggling with maths or having friendship problems, make sure you raise any major issues with your child’s teacher as they arise, rather than waiting until your consultation. “Teachers prefer to know about problems sooner rather than later, so they can start to address them,” says Louise. “Likewise, teachers should inform parents about issues as they happen, so there are no nasty surprises at parents’ evening.”

7. Remember it’s a partnership

Having an audience with your child’s teacher can feel intimidating, but many teachers, particularly young and newly qualified ones, also get butterflies before parent-teacher consultations. “Remember that you and the teacher are a partnership,” says John. “If you can have regular contact with the teacher and keep the same goals in mind, then ultimately your consultation should strengthen the relationship between you – and that can only benefit your child.”

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