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Sara Bubb on how to prepare and handle parents' evenings.Every parents' evening is a significant hurdle to get through. Experienced teachers find them hard, let alone new ones. But seize them as an opportunity. They're a chance to demonstrate that you're meeting the core standards if you "communicate effectively with parents and carers, conveying timely and relevant information about attainment, objectives, progress and well-being".

Put a lot of effort into them to make sure they go well. Write notes on each pupil, identifying strengths and areas for development socially and academically. Have a list of your appointments and tick who you've seen. This should stop you getting confused and talking about the wrong child - it has happened.

Parents will be nervous, so smile, say hello and introduce yourself. Get people's names right or avoid saying them. Titles are tricky too. Someone whose title is Dr would be justified in getting a little riled by a teacher who gets it wrong. Think of a structure. Some people start with "Have you got any concerns?" and others leave that to the end. Give parents a chance to speak.

It can be excruciatingly embarrassing for all involved when children accompany their parents, which is the policy in some schools. Think how you're going to handle things. I know one teacher who spends the whole time talking about the young person as if they weren't there and another teacher who spends the whole time addressing the child as if their parents weren't there. Weird.

There are some definite no-nos. Don't mix up children or compare them with their siblings. Don't just stare at your mark book and comment vaguely on the grades that pupils have got in tests or homework. Say how the young person is doing and give one or two ideas as to what they should do to improve. Don't just say that they need to work harderwrite morebehave better - say exactly what will make a difference.

Sara Bubb is an educational consultant specialising in induction. Her Successful Induction for New Teachers is published by Sage.

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