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So, how do you think he’s getting on?

This week the school is holding our termly parent consultation meetings, giving teachers the opportunity to update parents on the progress their children have made – whilst allowing parents to share important information from home. It’s a really important discussion that supports teachers and parents to work together in partnership for the benefit of our children.

There is a great scene in the film ‘Fever Pitch’ where a teacher issues the same bland statements to all parents during each consultation, clearly not quite having figured out whose parents he was actually talking to. This has only happened to me once – but I think I got away with it.

I distinctly remember parents’ evenings from the other side of the fence, waiting for my parents’ return, feeling a mixture of anticipation and dread. Primary school was generally ok, but this was not always the case at secondary school, with one particularly brutal evening still featuring in family folklore. I still maintain this was a pre-emptive strike by teachers to scare my parents into making me revise harder for ‘O’ levels. ‘Could try harder’ doesn’t even come close to describing the message that was received. My mum is eternally grateful to retired Army Colonel, Mr Pryke, not normally known for his sensitivity, who on seeing her on the verge of tears said, ‘don’t worry, he’ll be alright.’

When parents’ evenings work well, it allows home and school to present the united front, which is of enormous benefit to our children. The age-old practice of ‘splitting’, where one party is played off against the other, can be nipped in the bud – and children always feel secure when parents and the class teacher are on the same page. At school, being ‘in loco parentis’ is a huge responsibility and isn’t taken lightly. As I frequently say, it’s a big enough job looking after one child, imagine what it’s like to take charge of 30.

For teachers, preparation for parents’ evening is an ongoing process as, every day we learn more about our children. We watch what they do, we listen to what they say and we notice their progress. We observe the things they like doing and the things they avoid. We learn about their friendships; the children they work best with and the pairings that don’t work quite so well.

Before each parents evening, we hold what we call Pupil Progress Meetings. These are professional discussions held between the class teacher, Inclusion Manager and me. Within this meeting we look at the progress that each child has made in the last term, discuss any concerns we may have and think about any additional support that might be needed to make sure that the needs of each child in the class are being met. We have a bit of a mantra at school that parents’ evening should never be a place for surprises. If something is that important, it needs to be shared straight away, not saved up for parents evening.

Contrary to what you might think, teachers really enjoy parents’ evening. Yes, they’re exhausting – having to talk in a professional and considered way, non-stop, for a couple of hours after a day’s work is really tiring. However, having the opportunity to talk about each child with their parents gives context and fills in the missing pieces of information. It completes the picture we have of each child, helping us to best support them in their learning and development.

It might come as a surprise to know that talking about the children in their class is something teachers can’t get enough of. If you happen to come across a group of teachers enjoying a catch up and a glass of wine in a pub on a Friday night, you might imagine they’re discussing politics, films or football. Come in a bit closer and you’ll find that, as well as all of the above, it’s your children they’re talking about – with pride, great affection and warmth (even the naughty ones).

William