Of all the new tools and technologies adopted by schools over the past two years, few have been met with such universal approval as the virtual parents’ evening.
We’ve been asking the schools attending our Future of Parents’ Evening webinars and 97 per cent said they will run either fully virtual or blended parent meetings this year.
Former catch-up tsar Sir Kevan Collins said earlier this year that “the way that schools do parents’ evenings I don’t think will ever be the same again”. He added that the online version was “much better than trying to find a car parking space on a wet Tuesday and waiting your turn”.
So what are the other advantages? These teachers offer their views:
Matt Roberts, Year 6 teacher in the north of England:
1. Convenience for families
“I am a parent of two children. That used to mean sorting childcare for both parents’ evenings, balancing timings with other family commitments, such as driving children to after-school clubs, providing a meal and making sure all other tasks were completed.
“With an online parents’ evening, the journey to school was removed and only took 10 minutes out of our evening in the comfort of our home. We had the same discussion that we would have had in person and I found that, because the environment was not a loud and bustling school hall, we could actually focus better.”
2. Better timekeeping
“As a teacher, the online parents’ evening was far easier to plan and time-manage. Parents were less particular about what times would and wouldn’t suit because they didn’t have to plan the journey out.
“The waiting room function on our virtual platform meant that we could see which parents were waiting and when they arrived rather than having to crane our neck outside the classroom door.
“And we could easily check the time on the corner of the screen without social convention making us feel rude for checking our watch or looking at the clock on the wall. I even found I was able to call up the parents who did not connect via Zoom for their appointment because everything was much calmer, more composed and ran to time.”
3. Simpler preparation
“Preparing the school and classrooms for parents’ evening has always been an added pressure. Does the room look just right? Is the date right on the board? How do we direct and guide parents who only step into the building twice a year to where they are meant to go?
“With a virtual event, all that was required was informing parents how to join the Zoom room. After that consideration, along with setting some online standards – which were well-publicised for home learning anyway – the planning for parents’ evening was smooth.”
Kate Jones, head of history at The British School Al Khubairat in Dubai:
4. Flexibility and less stress
“For me, the biggest improvement is the flexibility. I still dress in work attire and host appointments from my office space, which means everything still feels professional, but it is easier to go to the toilet or make a cup of tea between conversations.
“My students also say that they find a home-based parents’ evening more enjoyable, noting that, while it still feels important, it doesn’t have quite the same high-stakes feel that in-person events can – but needn’t – have.”
5. Improved logistics
“There can be some logistical issues with parents’ evening, such as parking and traffic towards the end of the evening. Parents can get lost around the school building or not factor in travel time when scheduling appointments.
“There can also be the issue of noise with so many conversations happening, which can be distracting and problematic. But online, attention can solely be dedicated to the conversation between the teachers and parents, without interruptions.”
These articles originally appeared on Tes News, in the articles 3 reasons online parents’ evenings should stay for ever and Why Zoom parents’ evenings are the way forward.