Parents’ evening preparation: How to get the most out of the event
Parents’ evening planning guide
Parents’ evening isn’t just about teachers getting together with parents to talk about their pupils’ academic progress. This is, of course, the basic premise. But parents’ evening should be about so much more than this. After all, a teacher can spend almost as much time with a child as their parents. This means that teachers have the incredible privilege of getting to know a child: their strengths, their weakness, their fears, and their passions.
Parents’ evening, then, is a chance for teachers and parents to share their knowledge and come to a better understanding of who that young person is and what they need from their education. The problem with this is that, as harried and rushed events, parents’ evenings often don’t provide the space or time required for this kind of exchange.
So, how can schools facilitate parents’ evenings that enable parents and teachers to communicate more effectively? First, it starts with good preparation.
How to prepare for parents’ evening
- Deal with big issues in advance
Don’t wait for parents’ evening to raise big issues that require a lot of discussion and potential changes to tackle them. Instead, when larger issues arise, deal with them head on at the time. This should mean that you can keep parents’ evenings to more manageable topics, rather than trying to say and do too much in a short space of time.
- Get to know each pupil individually
Make sure you know every child and their parents by name. We know, this is a tall order for those teachers who have many pupils to remember. But in this case, use cue cards or notes to trigger your memory. This is especially important for those pupils’ that don’t tend to take up much of your attention in class – parents’ evenings should be a chance for every pupil to feel seen.
As a bonus, if you don’t have too many pupils to make this manageable, schedule a five-minute sit down chat with each pupil before the night to make sure you know how they’re feeling in their own words.
- Prepare notes about each pupil
You can’t possibly remember everything there is to say about every child – so make short, easy to read notes that you can refer to. Complement this by also having some of the pupil’s work to hand so you can reference their achievements and give their parents a chance to see what they’ve been working on.
- Structure each appointment in advance
Prepare a structure for each conversation that has a beginning, middle, and end. If you only have 10 minutes with each parent, this will give you the chance to use every second of those 10 minutes and also provide a satisfactory end to the meeting.
Within this structure, allocate time to listen to parents. It may be that they are coming prepared to speak specifically about a concern or issue. If you don’t structure time into your schedule for them to voice those concerns, they may not get the chance again and they will walk away feeling dissatisfied.
- Leave space between each meeting
As humans, we tend to think we can do more within a time limit than we actually can. Being aware of this just means you can avoid falling into this trap by planning ahead and structuring your appointments to leave extra time between each. This can allow you to run over slightly when needed, take a break, and make any notes you need to after appointments so that you’re not relying on your memory.
How to ensure you have an effective conversation with parents
- Take care to introduce yourself if you’re not familiar.
- Welcome them into the space so they feel comfortable.
- Familiarise yourself with their names before they enter.
- Start with a question, like “how do you feel Sophie is progressing this term?” to start a two-way conversation.
- Combine praise with constructive feedback.
- If there are issues, be specific so that all parties know exactly where they’re looking to see change.
- Focus less on achievements and more on progress.
- Take time to listen.
- If you can’t answer questions on the spot, make a note to follow up.
- Close by reiterating positives and any objectives.
Top tips to ensure your parents’ evening runs smoothly
- Plan your event well in advance
Getting a date in the diary well ahead of time means appointments can be confirmed in good time, so that both parents and teachers can thoroughly prepare. It also should result in less cancellations and no shows.
- Provide flexibility
Essentially, plan a parents’ evening around the parents. This may mean providing a mixture of in person and online appointments, which is especially important for making your parents’ evening accessible. But in addition, gave parents a choice of appointment times, again reducing the chances of cancellations and no shows.
- Consider using a Parents’ Evening System
A Parents’ Evening System takes care of the admin side of the event, so all that teachers and parents have to do is turn up. Plus, a Parents’ Evening System that’s integrated with your current software, such as ReachMoreParents, can reduce confusion because it means parents only need to log in to one app to find the information they need.
But of course, a good Parents’ Evening System is more than just an online appointment booking system – it should also be able to host video calls, enabling you to make your parents’ evenings virtual events. So that everyone can participate from the comfort of their own homes.
- Get the word out
Make sure every parent or guardian knows about parents’ evening by getting the word out in a variety of ways, such as email, in app messages, and letters, and also by providing reminders.
- Make it easy to sign up
The easier it is to sign up and book an appointment, the more parents will do so. Consider allowing parents to book online, using a link that you can send out via your school up or email, and provide instructions to make the process simple for those who aren’t particularly tech savvy.
Supporting parent-teacher collaboration
When parents and teachers can communicate effectively, they can both gain insight from the other that can better enable them to effectively support the child.
For example, if a child is being bullied in school but their parents don’t know this, they can’t provide the support that child needs to cope and probably won’t understand their lack of enthusiasm for going to school. Similarly, if a child is really struggling to concentrate in class but has only told their parents, then their teacher can’t put strategies in place to help them get the most out of their lessons.
In short, parent-teacher collaboration is vital for enabling a child to learn in a supportive environment that can adapt to their needs. Parents’ Evening is a pivotal tool for parent-teacher collaboration, but it’s not the only option available. Parental involvement in other school events can support community building in a school, giving parents and teachers the opportunity to get to know each other in a less formal environment.
However, a really effective way to foster more consistent communication between teachers and parents is via a communications platform like ReachMoreParents. With ReachMoreParents, you can create your own school branded app to allow you to send and receive secure messages instantly, put your Parents’ Evenings on a calendar that everyone can access and link with their own Google or Microsoft calendars, and improve accessibility with language translations.
Collecting feedback and evaluation
Finally, just because you think your latest parents’ evening has been a really positive experience doesn’t mean everyone who attended feels that way. But that’s okay, because asking for feedback on both the highs and the lows of the event can enable you to make changes and improve the experience for next time.
Using your school branded app to send out a survey on mass and/or ask for feedback from everyone who attended can be a really positive way to use the technology you have available to make improvements. Plus, acknowledging that not everything will have been ideal for every attendee will prevent resentment from building up by allowing parents to voice their concerns and see tangible change.
Ultimately, collecting feedback and evaluating the performance of your parents’ evenings is a vital part of fostering good parent-teacher communication and therefore a core component of every parents’ evening.
Reach more parents with our Parents’ Evening System
To ease the stress of your parents’ evenings and ensure a better experience for everyone involved, discover our market leading Parents’ Evening System.
- Relieve the admin burden for teachers and school support staff.
- Enable parents to choose their appointment times online.
- Enable teachers to schedule their own availability and rest breaks.
- Provide automatic reminders.
- Enable virtual appointments.
- Ensure that children can’t screen their own appointments.
Suitable for primary schools, secondary schools, private schools, and MATs, find out more about our Parents’ Evening System here.