Learning review meetings offer an alternative to the traditional parents’ evening model where teacher and parent face each other across a table for ten minutes. Increasingly, primary schools are taking up the idea of actively involving children during these meetings.
From the foundation stage upwards, the use of video clips to provide a glimpse of children during the school day provides a unique insight for parents into their child’s developing experience of school. As soon as the child is able to do so, many schools encourage them to join meetings with their family so that the emphasis is on talking to the child rather than speaking about them.
At my school, in addition to family consultations from nursery to Year 4, we offer all parents of children in Years 5 and 6 a learning review meeting appointment. These meetings are 15-minutes long and are held in the headteacher’s office. Each child prepares a brief presentation about their successes and challenges, using several PowerPoint slides. The teacher brings her assessment notes and the books are put out on the coffee table so that we can all see examples of the work that is being completed.
There are many advantages to this process. As headteacher, I meet formally with each Year 5 and Year 6 child with their teacher and family four times over five terms and gain powerful insight into the child’s learning and their experience of school. As a participant in these meetings over time, I am also visibly committing myself to ensuring that anything promised during the meeting will be delivered. Parents enjoy the experience of hearing directly from their child and the whole experience has added status.
The format of meetings means that, typically, there will be meetings organised throughout a full day with a separate evening for additional appointments. This means that in a one-form entry school, I dedicate two full days and two evenings in the autumn and spring terms to meet with 60 children and their parents. I have a file where I record the key challenges that each child identifies about their learning, and the actions that we all agree we will take. These can be very simple things but impact is achieved when we follow these through consistently, both at home and at school.
It is wonderful to see children develop throughout the final two years of primary school. They arrive for the learning review meeting with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The presentation slides are written independently by the children. They often including whizzy graphics and features that incorporate images such as photographs from their class blog. The meeting begins with the child welcoming everyone to their learning review, followed by a brief presentation. Once the presentation has been made, the teacher will pick up on challenges and successes identified and provide her own feedback directly to the child about their progress. This feedback is never about results or future grades, but is specific to the areas of learning that have been covered in class.
Parents are pleased to witness their child’s confident presentation, to hear the dialogue between teacher and learner and to see examples of their child’s work. They are encouraged to support the child in addressing the next steps for their learning, which may be as diverse as improving their spelling, more reading or rehearsing for a forthcoming play or concert.
By the time that children reach the end of Year 6, they are almost universally confident about discussing their achievements in learning and describing their ambition in a way that transcends the need for grades.
Dame Alison Peacock is executive headteacher of the Wroxham School in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, and a government adviser