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By Geoff Ashton

5 minutes reading time (984 words)

Questions You Should Ask At Parents’ Evening - Primary Aged Kids

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This is predominantly aimed at parents of primary aged school children – as that is where my personal experience lies. There will be some basic principles that can be applied to secondary situations too. (Or you should go and read this post about questions to ask at a High School parents' evening.)

If you’re lucky, you’ll get 2 or 3 chances to speak with your child’s teacher in a whole school year. Some schools offer only 1 slot per year. 10 minutes. That’s it! Out of all those hours of teaching and learning, you get 10 minutes to find out how things are going.

Do you plan for these golden moments? Not many do – but they should. I’m not advocating you turn up with a notepad, pencil and a list of questions poured over and redrafted. Rather, a few minutes thought and discussion with your partner (if appropriate) as to what you actually want to find out.

In many instances, the teacher will tell you this information as a matter of course. I’m merely suggesting you make yourself aware what to look out for, and perhaps subtly bend the conversation around to things they may not have told you.

What parents usually ask:

1. How is my child getting on?

Too general, and really only a conversation starter rather than a genuine attempt at gleaning a useful, specific answer. General questions will result in general responses e.g. Question: How is he/she getting on? Answer: He/she is doing OK !! Point taken?

2. Where is my child in relation to the other kids?

Competitive Parent Syndrome! We all suffer from it – me included. But does it tell you anything that you can use to improve things? Possibly, but it needs some refining.

3. Is my child making progress?

‘Yes!’ It is a rare child who makes zero progress over the course of a term. Again, a general question will result in a general answer – one which is very difficult to prove or disprove.

 

Here’s my list, after being on both the teacher’s side of the desk and the parent’s:

1. Behaviour – always the first on the list. Has to be. Enough said.

2. Manners and politeness – not considered nearly enough as it should be. These are social rules that help us rub along with each other as best we possibly can.

3. Progress - is he/she working at an above-average, an average or a below-average level? (May need to refer to reading, writing, maths and spelling separately!) Whilst they may give you National Curriculum levels, these are set to change in the future so this question will give you an idea that satisfies your competitive instincts. But make sure to follow this up with questions about whether your child is on target for this Year Group’s expectations, or whether they are expected to exceed them or fall short of them. This will then give you useful information (when coupled with actual areas for development) to take action if you feel it’s needed.

4. Following on from the previous question - what are the next major areas for development, specific to your own child? They are likely to have a list to give you anyway, but if not, ask for one.

Handshake

5. VITAL QUESTION ALERT! Is my child an active or passive learner, and with what attitude do they approach learning tasks?

This is so crucial for future learning potential, but also in terms of recent changes when compared to the previous year or term. Almost without exception, children who actively involve themselves within a lesson, who are self-motivated and who engage with the teacher and with their peers in a learning capacity academically outshine those who sit passively, who fidget, who get distracted, who need motivating to participate, who are consistently reluctant to carry out a task. You as a parent need to know which characteristics your child predominantly displays. If there’s been a change since the previous year or term, you need to know about it.

6. Social Interaction. Does my child interact well with others?

Another of those questions that don’t tend to get discussed much, despite it being one which can have a major influence over a child’s self-esteem, behaviour and ultimately, progress. Don’t assume a teacher will mention this. A classroom is a very complex and dynamic place with thousands of interactions taking place daily. While they certainly won’t hide it from you, they may be inclined to put any issues down to individual personalities. You know your child better than anyone – so make it your business to find out.

Just some general advice to conclude: Relationships are extremely important within a school environment, so too is your relationship with the teacher. Show the teacher you support them with your child, that you appreciate and value their efforts. Ask that they contact you if there are any areas of concern and that you will back up their decisions – especially those concerning behaviour. Believe me, doing this will have benefits for your child. I’m not suggesting teachers are impartial, rather that if they feel relaxed with the parent, they will also feel more confident and secure in dealing with your child.

Conversely, if you go into the interview with an aggressive tone, thus straining the teacher/parent relationship, however unintentionally, some of this poor feeling may be passed on to your child. It’s human nature.

And finally, this isn’t a job interview. You’re not Ofsted. This Parents’ Evening won’t make or break your child’s future. Balance is the key and just a little forethought. Good luck out there…

 

If you're looking for some professional help to get your child back on track, then spend a few minutes reading why Ash Tutors is a far superior service for you and your child: Primary School Tutors

 

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Monday, 18 March 2019

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