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Tips of the trade: 24. Telephoning parents

Although we should ring parents and guardians to relay positive information about their children, we tend to ring only when a problem arises. The aim of telephoning is to improve a situation that is causing concern.

Speak first to colleagues who know the child's carer to ensure the call stands a good chance of success. That said, most parents appreciate being informed as soon as problems arise. Consider where the carer will receive the call: some parents don't like discussing sensitive matters when they're at work. If ringing from home, prefix the dialled number with 141 to ensure pupils don't have your number the next morning.

Introduce your school first, then yourself and your role with the child. Begin with a positive comment to show that you can see some good in the child.

Explain the situation. The carer will either accept your version; listen, but say they need to hear the child's version; or defend the child. While the final scenario can be distressing for teachers, you are right for trying to work with the carer and should say you will seek advice from your line manager.

Have ready a suggested remedy. For example, detention. Thank the carer for his or her support, pass a note of the conversation to your line manager, and relay the child's progress from now on in a brief follow-up call, or a note in the child's homework diary.

Tony Elston is head of modern languages at Urmston grammar school, Manchester.Have you any useful tips to pass on?We pay pound;50 for all tips published. Send yours to:

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