Tips for NQTs – Parent Consultation
Most NQTs are understandably nervous about the prospect of their first parent consultation evening alone as ‘the’ teacher. Many trainees get the opportunity to sit in on parent consultations during a school placement. The chances are that you will be exhausted after your parent consultations. If it is any consolation, most of your colleagues probably feel the same. Many teachers will tell you they find it tiring.
As with most things, a little preparation before the event goes a long way. Considering the main points you want to address can be helpful. Use one sheet per child so that parents cannot read comments about any other child in your class. However, do not be too reliant on your notes as parents will begin to wonder whether you know their child.
Remember that parents are going to make long-lasting judgements about their child’s teacher based on one 5/10 minute appointment. It is in your best interest to take control of the situation and show that you know your stuff. This is where good preparation backed up with evidence is worth having.
Tips for parent consultations
Know your main messages for each child.
Prepare some key points to feedback to parents (see template in appendices).
It is worth skim reading the last school report for the child – make sure that what you are saying is not in conflict with the comments from the previous teacher.
Make sure you are talking about the right child!
There are many stories of teachers getting part way through a discussion only to realise they are talking about the wrong child.
Use pupil work to illustrate a point
Have some of the child’s work available to illustrate the points you are making.
For example, if you are explaining that an individual needs to work on improving their accuracy in maths – show some work which has led you to this conclusion. This makes the message more concrete for the parents.
Stick to your agreed timings
Remember that you are not the only person talking to parents. As soon as one teacher spends too long with a parent this can impact on the appointments of everyone else. If it feels like more time is needed for a specific child, invite the parent to come and see you before or after school on another day.
Remember you are talking about their child
Naturally, most parents are protective of their children.
Make it clear that you are very positive about their child and emphasise the positive points.
Try to say something personal about the child to demonstrate you really know them.
A positive start will put parents at ease and make them more likely to listen to, and take in, the development points you believe are pertinent for the child. Be careful in your use of language about the development points. They must not appear as criticism but areas to work on. Try where possible to secure agreement from the parent that they will support what you are trying to achieve in school. Always make it clear that you only have one aim, which is to help their child. By making this clear it puts you on an equal footing with the parent, i.e. wanting the best for their child. Remember that if you need to alert parents to issues regarding behaviour, that you should be describing the behaviour and not the child.
Have some water as you will be talking for a long time.
If you are going to deliver a difficult message – talk it over first with your headteacher or team leader. They might know something about the child and/or parent which may influence how you deliver the message.
If there is a difficult message – do not hide from it. Parents will understandably ask at a later date why they were not told.
Prepare for difficult or potentially aggressive parents
It will be particularly important to fully prepare for parents who you know may be aggressive or difficult. Above all, remember to remain professional and calm – however hard this may be.
It is worth running through the feedback you are going to be giving with your team leader or headteacher.
Many schools have systems in place to deal with these issues in order to support individual teachers, e.g. letting the headteacher know the timings of the appointment so that they can ‘drop by’.
Take control of the appointment
Take the lead. Stand up and welcome them.
Direct them to their seats.
Consider seating arrangements
This may be dictated by the school arrangements for parent consultations, e.g. some schools hold all consultations in the school hall in which case there will probably be desks around the hall.
If you see parents in your classroom think about the seating arrangements. Will you sit behind a desk? Will you just have several chairs so that you are not behind a desk? Will you sit at the child’s table with their books?
Think about the work you do in class on the days of parent consultations
When doing your planning for the weeks of parent consultations, think carefully about the work on the days of parent consultations. You will obviously have little time for marking on these days so consider the type of work the children will do during the day.
Extract taken from NQT Toolkit.
Specifically targeted at those starting out in primary teaching, the NQT Toolkit is a practical guide to the things that people often forget to tell newly qualified teachers. It includes sections on classroom organisation and management, behaviour and expectations, dealing with the first of everything (parents evenings, report writing, organising a trip etc.) as well as planning, marking and assessment. To see more, including sample pages, visit the link here.
Vicky is the Marketing Executive at Focus Education.