Conversations between parents and teachers about children’s progress represents a fantastic opportunity to celebrate each child’s uniqueness, interests and achievements, along with being a crucial opportunity to build relationships between parents and teachers.
Giving parent’s feedback on their children’s progress is one of the greatest and most valuable insights we can give parents as to how their child is developing within the school environment. School life is a huge part of a child’s world, yet parents often feel on the outside and unfamiliar with the on goings of school and their child’s experiences within it. I hear so many parents say that when they ask their child about their day, they get little more than a grunt or some shrugged shoulders back in response. Sharing information with parents about how their child is coping and developing at school, is therefore more valuable than you may realise.
When I was a class teacher, the children and I would often finish the school day with a circle time based around sharing both the high and low points of our days, we called it ‘our highlights and challenges’. Bringing the school day to a close in this way gives children the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and achievements, and to take a minute to stop and feel proud of or learn from them. It also means the events of the day are fresh in the children’s minds for them to potentially share with parents. I think this is a practice adults could benefit greatly from also, all too often we are racing round from one thing to the next, never stopping to reflect and enjoy the present moment and successes. Circle times such as these, help to build the children’s self-esteem, as they enjoy their accomplishments and receive ideas from other children if they are struggling to remember high points from their day. These occasions also provide a chance for you to further personalise your notes and records on each child, as they create time for you to observe the children and gain a clear insight into their interests, triumphs and confidence towards talking about themselves and their experiences openly. It is significant to see and communicate with parents each child’s individual journey, not just give feedback in relation to assessments and other comparative statistics.
For events such as parents evening, don’t leave preparation until the last minute, make sure that planning, marking and the children’s books or curriculum records are all up to date. This ensures that the information you are giving about each child’s progress is as accurate and current as possible. Write notes for each child outlining the key points that you need to discuss. It is a good idea to have a template for parents evening notes. This way all of the notes from the parent’s evenings that take place across the year can be kept together, helping them to be easily accessed, referred to and reflected upon. It’s important to look back at previous reports to see what past issues may have been raised and the development made in these areas. Collect input from other members of staff in advance to add to your notes, such as from extra-curricular teachers who may take your class for certain lessons. Within your template it would also be helpful to include an area to write notes during and after the evening, so that you can record any important issues raised. The more preparation you do, the more confident you will feel on the day.
Feedback to parents needs to be encouraging, truthful and supportive at the same time. It is important to discuss the positive aspects of a child’s progress, their achievements and where they are thriving, but also to cover the more challenging or sensitive issues that may be arising. Parent’s evenings can be very time restrictive, to ensure time for each parent across the evening. Times allocated are often brief, which is generally fine in order to provide an overview of a child’s progress where there are no real concerns or issues that need to be discussed in more detail. Discussions around more sensitive information regarding a child’s development should be delivered in a meeting outside of parents evening. Adequate time will need to be provided to allow the information to be delivered thoroughly and questions to be asked and answered in detail. It is also crucial that support options and strategies have been thought of in advance of the meeting, so that you are able to introduce these ideas to parents in an informed and reassuring manner. This could be the first time a parent is made aware of an issue regarding their child and it could therefore come as a shock, this can provoke different responses and reactions. Being prepared and compassionate towards a parent, helps them to feel that they are in capable and supportive hands.
The focus of parents evening feedback should be a balance between both academics and a child’s personal, social and emotional development. A child’s social skills, friendships and relationships, self-esteem and emotional awareness are all fundamental aspects towards their wellbeing, which in turn has a huge impact on their behaviour and overall ability to learn. It is therefore crucial that teachers support these areas and provide clear and informed feedback to parents. Effective feedback is all about giving parents tangible information, outlining next steps and goals and ways in which they can provide further support and encouragement outside of school.
Feedback for parents needn’t be saved for parents evenings only. Discussions around concerns, academic or behavioural etc. should be had with parents as soon as possible, so that they are aware and the necessary support can be put in place. Any talents or interests a child is presenting should also be communicated with parents, to enable them to be recognised and nurtured in the same way. Depending on the dynamics of your school day, drop off or pick up can present an opportunity to share moments and achievements from the day, this enables parents to celebrate in them also. Some schools invite parents in for workshops and interactive mornings, where they can see and experience first-hand their children in the school environment. Times like these can also provide parents with opportunities to think of questions they might like to explore with you further, so they can feel more involved in and aware of certain areas of the curriculum and their child’s learning and development.
It is also important to remember how much you can learn from parents about their children during meetings. Asking parents about their children’s interests outside of school, hobbies, family life and background, helps you to gain an even greater insight into each child’s world and therefore cater for them more successfully. It also provides an opportunity to discuss approaches and strategies that may be working well at home or school, consistency were possible is hugely beneficial. The more we know about children, the more we are able to connect with them and provide for them effectively. As parents and teachers are fundamental goal is to help our children to thrive and reach their ultimate potential in life, supportive relationships between home and school life creates a greater chance of success.