Far too often, parents’ evening is a disappointment. You know that relationships with parents are crucial, and you go into parents’ evening with as much enthusiasm as you can muster, but it often ends up being tiring, frustrating and ultimately unproductive for everyone involved.
We could scrap them, but I feel it might be better to simply adapt them. So how could we make them better?
1. The gift of time
Currently, I meet parents for five-minute slots. In that time, we share data, discuss progress, describe behaviour…I tend to talk so fast I can barely understand myself.
Making the sessions longer is essential. How to do this without taking more of our precious time?
Some schools give time during the school day, starting their Parent’s Evening at 1pm so those parents who are able to can attend then, giving longer in the evening for those that can’t. But there is also another option (see point 3).
2. Make them more regular
Having a parents’ evening part way through autumn and spring terms means that a teacher can go months without any real contact with parents. The impact of even the most productive parents' evening session can wane fairly quickly.
An alternative would be more regular opportunities for contact. These could be brief slots available each day that a parent could book in, or simply making some of the informal ways we keep in touch with parents – such as calls home – more formal.
Another option is... again, see point 3.
3. Use technology
For both the above, technology should be a key part of the solution.
We can also utilise Skype and other video calling software and apps to arrange face-to-face meetings. This would allow parents who find it difficult to make their way into a school building to take part in discussions from home. It would also allow staff to conduct meetings in smaller blocks during the day, rather than time taking up after school.
Alternatively, teachers could record a message to parents, showing work, explaining progress and behaviour. This message could then be responded to by parents.
4. Ensure the child is involved
At all age groups, rather than a two-way conversation between parent and teacher, involving pupils in the discussion means that everyone involved is aware of what is said. Making the meeting a dialogue between all three parties ensure that any messages are clearly understood by all.
Ben Connor is a senior leader and English lead in Lancashire. He tweets @bbcteaching