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Teachers’ tips for parents’ evening

Teachers' tips for parents' evenings
How do teachers approach their own children’s parent consultations? What do they wish we would and wouldn’t do? We asked them to share their insider tips.

Parents’ evenings can be tricky to negotiate. With such a small window of time, we all want to make sure we find out as much as we can about how our children are getting on at school, but often, our minds go blank, we’re thrown by a curveball, or we run out of time before we’ve even got started properly.

With this in mind, we asked the real experts – teachers themselves – for their advice on making the most of your parent-teacher consultation. Here’s what they had to say.

Preparing for parents’ evening

‘It’s useful to prepare some questions in advance, as every parent wants to know about different things: some want to know about their child’s academic ability, while others are mainly interested in their wellbeing and enjoyment of school.’
Alexandra Cooper, Year 4 teacher

‘Discuss the evening with your child first, to make a note of questions to ask and any potential issues you need to raise. Review any previous school reports or assessment results so you’re up to date with your child’s progress.’
Gilbert Simmons, Head of Academics, Clifton College

‘Maximise your time by talking to your child beforehand and seeing if they have any issues or worries. Use the meeting to ask the questions that they want to ask; you’re more likely to get a personal response that way, rather than the basic information about academic achievement, key skills and friendships.’
Jack Yard, Year 4 teacher

‘In almost all cases, taking your child to parents’ evening is very useful; it helps them feel involved in their learning, and teachers will still be frank in their presence. However, if circumstances mean you’d prefer to attend without your child, it’s best to discuss this with their teacher before parents’ evening.’
Gilbert, Head of Academics

‘Take a list of three main points you want to cover, to keep the discussion focused. It’s really hard for teachers to manage their time on parents’ evening, so if you need a more in-depth conversation, request a one-to-one meeting on another occasion.’
Vicki, Year 1 teacher

On the day

‘Accept that your child acts differently in front of their mates from how they do at home, which might mean they’re not always an angel. There are always two sides to every story, so don’t jump to conclusions until you’ve heard the facts.’
Lyndsey, Year 5 teacher

‘Don’t dwell on negative comments, but ask what can be done to help your child moving forward. Think of yourself and the teacher as being like athletics coaches, encouraging your child to make small gains.’
Lizzie, Year 2 teacher

‘If the teacher hits you with information you think you should have heard before, ask if you can phone or email to discuss it further, rather than venting your displeasure in front of your child, who still has to work with that teacher.’
Sarah, Year 3 teacher

‘Keep in mind that the vast majority of teachers will be on your child’s side, with their best interests at heart.’
Jo, Year 4 teacher

‘Remember, teachers don’t have time to have favourites or to pick on individual kids. If a child is good, they get praise; if not, they face the consequences. It’s not personal, nor a reflection of if we like or dislike a child: in reality, we like all of them most of the time!’
Lizzie, Year 2 teacher

‘Take a notebook to jot down ideas or recommendations, as teachers often refer to useful websites, give out logins for apps and programmes we’ve purchased, or advise who to speak to if there are medical issues or special educational needs.’
Alexandra, Year 4 teacher

‘Have high standards for your child. It breaks my heart when a parent says, “Well, X just isn’t very good at science.” Low expectations don’t help, so always ask how you can help your child.’
Marie, Year 6 teacher

‘You can expect to be told your child’s current level and whether they’re at the expected standard for their age. If not, ask why, and what measures are being put into place to support them. But don’t ask how they’re doing compared to the rest of the class: we see children as individuals with a range of skills, so it would be unfair to make comparisons.’
Alexandra, Year 4 teacher

Practical advice

‘Try to keep calm over timings and teachers running late, so you’re not stressed out as soon as you sit down.’
Sarah, Year 3 teacher

‘Be mindful of other parents and try not to overrun with the class teacher. Some parents have taken time off work to make the appointment, so it’s unfair to cut into this time.’
Alexandra, Year 4 teacher

‘If you’re a split family, recognise the time demands on the teacher and don’t expect an individual appointment for each parent. Also, make sure you keep your child and their needs at the heart of the conversation, and don’t use parents’ evening as an opportunity to outdo each other.’
Steph Matthews, headteacher

‘I’d prefer it if parents who have concerns that have been there for a while would say something as soon as the problems arise, rather than leaving it to parents’ evening when we don’t have time to discuss complex issues in depth.’
Jane, Nursery teacher

‘Make sure you actually turn up. Out of my class of 26 children, only 18 returned their parents’ evening form, and then not all of them even turned up. It’s a waste of the teacher’s time, and a wasted opportunity for you.’
Shelly, Year 5 teacher

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