Parents’ evening can often feel like a whirlwind. With lots of short appointments and lots of teachers, the whole thing can feel like a blur. It’s all too easy to come away feeling like you didn’t make the most of your time with your child’s teachers; perhaps you had questions you forgot to ask, or you didn’t receive all the information you were hoping for.

Parents’ evenings are invaluable because they offer a unique opportunity to receive direct, verbal feedback from your child’s teachers. Throughout the rest of the year, information about your child’s progress typically comes in the form of reports, mock results, or whatever your child chooses to share at the dinner table. Although the time allotted for each appointment is limited, these brief meetings provide a platform for open, frank discussions where you can ask questions and receive immediate answers.

In this article, you’ll learn how to prepare for parents’ evening, what questions to ask, and how to address any issues your child may be facing. By following these suggestions, you’ll be able to make the most out of the event and come away armed with the information you need to support your child for the remainder of the academic year.

Before parents’ evening

In-person or online?

When preparing for parents’ evening, you should check whether your child’s school is running it online or in person. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools transitioned to virtual parent-teacher meetings and have continued this format.

It’s important to bear in mind that during online parents’ evenings, each parent-teacher appointment is typically limited to around five minutes, after which it will automatically time out. It’s therefore vital to make the most of your allotted time and ensure you ask any essential questions or discuss any concerns early on in the slot.

Parent talking to her child's teacher during an online parent's evening.

Booking appointments

It is common for schools to request that parents pre-book time slots with each teacher during parents’ evening.

Make sure you book appointments with all your child’s teachers, regardless of whether or not your child loves a subject or plans to pursue it past GCSE. This way, you can gain a well-rounded understanding of your child’s performance at school.

If your child has two teachers for a subject, you should still try and see both of them. Often, each teacher covers different areas of the syllabus, e.g. inorganic versus organic chemistry, pure maths versus statistics, or human geography versus physical geography. Your child may excel in one area of the syllabus and find the other more challenging. If you only meet with one teacher, you risk receiving only half the picture.

How do I prepare for parents’ evening? Should I prepare for parents’ evening?

Parents’ evening time slots are often 5 to 10 minutes. Although this sounds short, it’s possible to cover a lot of ground if you come prepared.

To ensure you make the most of your time, it’s advisable to sit down with your child beforehand. Discuss each subject and teacher so you can familiarise yourself with who is who and how your child feels they are doing in each class.

You could ask them things like:

  • What do you enjoy about your lessons with Mr Smith?
  • How do you feel about your workload in English? Are there any particular pieces of work you find enjoyable or challenging?
  • How do you feel about your progress in Maths? Are there any areas where you’re struggling?
  • Have you been completing your homework and assignments on time?
  • Is there anything specific you’d like me to discuss with your teachers during parents’ evening or any issues you’d like me to raise?

Make brief notes on what your child tells you – good or bad. You can quickly skim over your notes before each appointment to ensure you don’t forget anything important you wish to say.

Mother chatting to her teenage daughter about school before parents' evening.

Should my child come to parents’ evening with me?

It is beneficial for your child to attend parents’ evening, especially as they get older and take more responsibility for their learning.

Parents’ evening provides an opportunity for your child to have a one-to-one discussion with their teacher about their progress, strengths, and areas for improvement, an interaction they might not typically experience in a classroom filled with thirty students. It can also foster a sense of ownership and responsibility for their education.

If you need to address a particularly important matter with a teacher, but your child feels uncomfortable being present, it’s reasonable to let them stay at home. However, if an issue pertains to just one teacher, they should still attend parents’ evening but discreetly excuse themselves during the appointment they wish to avoid.

During parents’ evening

During parents’ evening, it’s essential to efficiently manage your time to make the most of your brief parent-teacher appointments. Again, if there are specific matters you’d like to discuss, ensure you focus on these early in your time slot. This will ensure you have adequate time to engage in a meaningful and thorough discussion, rather than feeling rushed.

How to raise issues at parents evening

While every parent hopes their child will have a smooth and successful journey through school with inspiring teachers and excellent grades, the reality can be different.

If your child is facing significant challenges in a particular subject or if you have concerns about their teacher, there are constructive ways to address these issues during parents’ evening.

Mother and daughter meeting male teacher at parents' evening.

What to do if your child is struggling with a subject

If your child is struggling with a particular subject and you want to address this during parents’ evening, consider asking questions such as:

  • Are there any particular topics or concepts within Geography my child seems to struggle with the most?
  • Are there any resources or strategies you recommend to help my child improve in Computer Science?
  • How can I, as a parent, best support my child’s efforts in Physics at home?
  • Are there specific study habits or techniques my child could benefit from in History?
  • Is there any extra tutoring available that my child could access for Maths?

Navigating concerns about a teacher

When it comes to navigating concerns about a teacher, it’s crucial to maintain a respectful and non-confrontational tone. Approach the situation with the intention of collaborating to improve your child’s experience with their teacher.

Consider using phrases and questions like:

  • My child has been feeling a bit overwhelmed with the pace of the lessons in your class. Can we discuss strategies to help them keep up?
  • My child seems to be overwhelmed with the amount of homework assigned. Is there a possibility to adjust the homework load to ensure my child has time to balance their workload across all subjects effectively?
  • My child is experiencing anxiety due to frequent mock exams. Can we consider alternatives to ease their stress?

Make sure to take notes on the discussions that take place during parents’ evening. There may be time to jot down key points immediately after each appointment. However, if your appointments are too closely scheduled, record notes as soon after parents’ evening has finished as possible so you don’t forget any important details.

Giving positive feedback to teachers is also important!

Don’t forget to share positive feedback with your child’s teachers. If your child loves a subject because of the way Mrs Brown teaches it, or if they’ve enthusiastically shared their love for a specific lesson, don’t hesitate to express your gratitude. These words of appreciation can have a lasting impact and serve as a source of motivation and encouragement for teachers!

After parents’ evening

After parents’ evening, it’s important to have a debrief with your child. Whether they attended the event with you or not, open and honest communication is key.

You should begin by discussing your child’s perspective on the evening. Ask them how they felt it went and what their impressions were of the discussions with their teachers. It’s important to start on a positive note. Create a list of the compliments and positive feedback that teachers shared about your child. Highlight these aspects to ensure your child realises how well they are doing in school – it’s easy for them to just focus on any negative comments.

Mother discussing parents' evening with her teenage daughter.

After focusing on the positives, you can discuss any areas which may need to be worked on. For example, if multiple teachers pointed out that your child frequently submits homework late, explore how your child can better manage their time to meet deadlines. If they are finding a specific topic or subject challenging, discuss strategies recommended by teachers on how you can support your child in mastering that area.

If any significant concerns or issues were raised by the school or teachers during parents’ evening, take a proactive approach. This might involve reaching out to the school via email to get more information or to schedule additional meetings. Don’t hesitate to seek further clarification or address pressing matters.

Parents’ evening provides a valuable opportunity to engage with your child’s teachers, gain insights into their progress and address any concerns you or your child may have. Preparation, effective communication and a proactive approach can make these brief encounters really productive. Use the ideas outlined in this article to ensure your parents’ evening becomes a platform for informed discussions and constructive collaboration.

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Michelle Wright

With a background as a full-time tutor, Michelle's journey at PMT Education began when she was recruited to organise their revision courses. In her capacity as Head of Operations, she not only manages the day-to-day aspects but also takes the lead in running the tuition platform and holds a crucial role in tutor recruitment.