- What is the purpose of parents evening?
- Do you take your child to parents evening?
- Parents evening questions: What to ask at parents evening?
- What should you not do at parents evening?
A once or twice-yearly event, parents' evening is an important moment for parents and teachers of their children to openly communicate about their progress and wellbeing. The evening is often dreaded by many parents; it can be hard to know what to say and how to ask the right questions in such a short space of time. Here’s our guide to all things parents' evening and how to make the most out of it.
What is the purpose of parents' evening?
Most primary and secondary schools will provide at least one allotted day, afternoon or evening each academic school year for parents to (either physically or virtually) come into school, meet their child’s teachers and speak to them about how they are doing academically and pastorally.
Apart from the occasional phone call or email, for some parents, this might be their only interaction with their child’s school. It’s important to make it count! They are often compulsory, and unless there is a really good reason why you can’t go, it’s a fantastic opportunity to build a bridge between home and school. 😊
Schools will usually actively encourage parents to attend parents' evenings and provide an opportunity to book appointments with teachers for times that work for them. These are usually five (and no longer than ten) minutes per teacher. So it’s important to be punctual and ready for each one. If teachers have more to say about your child or get cut off, they’ll usually follow it up with an email or phone call.
Each school will have a different way of approaching the event, but the purposes largely remain the same:
First of all, how is your child doing? Are they well in school? Attending their lessons on time? Dressed correctly? Do they have the right equipment? Are they making friends and generally looking happy and content?
Progress and strengths
Are they making good academic progress across all subjects? Where are they performing particularly well? Are they showing signs of making improvements?
Targets and areas for improvement
Where can your child improve? What do they need to do to either achieve or exceed their targets? What can parents do at home to support them?
Do their teachers have any particular questions for you as parents? Do you have any questions for their teachers?
Later on, we’ll go through these sections in more depth, and provide you with plenty of questions to take in with you. 🚀
Teachers will use data such as class books, test performance and exam grades to inform the conversation as well as the most useful data set of all; their relationship with your child! Beyond data, numbers and written work, teachers can provide insight verbally into how your child acts every day in the classroom, and this is incredibly valuable.
In addition to meeting your child’s teachers, you can also have a look around their classroom(s) and school. Some parents might have visited once or twice before (for example at open days and interviews), and some not at all! So it can be really insightful to spend some time in the place where your child spends most of their daily lives.
Be prepared to go into parents' evening to discuss positive school experiences, but also to make plans about how to support your child further at home. Teachers will be prepared to share their expectations of your children and will be able to support you in taking some of the teaching home, too. The best learning is ongoing, where you encourage your child to regularly recall what they are learning in school.
Do you take your child to parents' evening?
As a parent, you can make an enormous difference in how your child performs and thrives at school. Most schools will very much encourage your child to be there with you at the appointments (in full school uniform!) for a number of reasons:
- They are responsible for their own progress. They need to listen to the guidance the teacher is giving them and you, and they’ll be able to help you understand more about what’s been going on in their lessons.
- It’s healthy and vital for your child to see you meet their teacher(s), and to get along with them. Having at least two adults that they trust to meet and discuss what they can do to support them will fill your child with pride, and motivate them to keep going.
- It teaches them to be held accountable for their actions in life. Sometimes challenging conversations between teachers and parents at parents' evening are turning points for children to realise that they need to change their behaviour, or that they need to make changes to be able to make further progress.
The best parents' evenings are conversation starting points. Because appointments are often so short (teachers sometimes have to meet up to 50 sets of parents!) there should be an opportunity to share and swap contact information (or remind each other of what they are) and continue to discuss your child’s progress and attainment for the rest of the year. 🌍
Teachers will find it incredibly supportive and endearing when parents are friendly, calm and open to what they have to say. Remember that teachers work tirelessly to provide an individual trajectory of progress for each of the children that they teach, so parents who are complimentary and on board with helping them will fare very well.
Parents' evening questions: What to ask at parents' evening?
At parent's evening, teachers will be very well-versed in how to maximise the short time slot with parents. They will usually lead the conversation, either by talking to your child directly about their progress (usually with older students) or to both of you. Take a notebook with you and be ready to make notes based on what their teachers share, and have some ideas for questions ready with you.
If you find you’re not keeping up with what's being said, or you still have queries unanswered, it’s very important you ask the right questions. We’ve split these up into three categories:
1. Positive and supportive questions
- What is going well for my child? What can I do at home to make sure this continues?
- Which aspects of the subject do they seem to enjoy? Is there anything I can do to stretch this further?
- Are they working well independently and in groups? Do they prefer to be a leader, or a listener, or both?
- Do they offer their suggestions in a class by putting their hand up? Or when asked by you?
- Are they happy with your subject? Can we see some of their best work?
2. Progress and academic-related questions
- How are they doing academically? Are they performing where you’d expect based on their previous work and targets? If not, how can they improve?
- How can I help to fill in any gaps at home? Can you direct me to any resources?
- Would they benefit from any further one-on-one help like tutoring?
- Do they need to move to a different seating position in class in order to be more focused? Are there any barriers to learning?
- How does their progress mean they might before in future exams?
- Can you talk us through the units and curriculum for the rest of the year?
3. Challenging and behaviour-related questions
- Why is their behaviour declining? Are they getting along with you and their peers?
- Are there certain lessons or times of the day when they are better behaviourally than others?
- What happens if their behaviour declines further?
- What are you doing to support (or reprimand) them behaviourally? Should we replicate this at home?
Remember that parents' evenings should be fairly quick and supportive updates on progress, and not a time for nasty surprises! If you or a teacher is concerned about an aspect of school, remember to contact them well before the evening, so that the time can be used productively for an update. If targets are set on parents' evening, then remember to follow up!
What should you not do at parents' evening?
Don’t be late! 💡 Schools often only have time during the year for one parents' evening per academic year group, and each teacher will have plenty of appointments. With such a small window of time, you don’t want to miss out. If you can’t make the evening, remember to get in touch with parents by email or phone, and they’ll be able to share your child’s progress at a later date.
Remember that going forward, the parent-school relationship should be ongoing. Some schools offer parents the opportunity to help in the classroom, with after-school activities and with school events or trips. Pupils can benefit from the support offered by an extra adult and this can be a good way to find out more about what your child is doing at school.
Teachers really value parents' evenings for helping to answer their questions as well. There are two sides to every story, and most often you can be the missing link between any poor communication between your child and their teachers. If the news is negative, this can be hard to deal with, so remember to follow up if you run out of time to discuss any surprises properly.
You can always contact your child’s school about anything regarding their wellbeing and education, so remember to speak to them before or after parents' evening if you have something longer than a short conversation to discuss. It’ll be the best thing you can do to make sure your child is happy both at home and at school in the long term.
We would suggest that you avoid asking where your child is placed in relation to the others in their class or year group, especially numerically. Schools usually no longer ‘rank’ students (this is actually quite old-fashioned!) and certainly wouldn’t share this with parents.
Your child’s trajectory of progress is individual, and comparing them with their peers like-for-like is largely unhelpful, and may only cause your child undue stress and pressure.
When things go well for your child on parents' evening, remember to praise and reward them. When they study lots of subjects, these evenings (often after a long day of school or work) can feel long and tiring, so make fun plans for food and games after or on the weekend!