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Schools Improve Communication with Parents

Monday 20th December 2010

For some, parents’ evening can seem more a poor version of speed dating than an attempt to sort out your child’s life, with the time-consuming shuffling from queue to queue in a big hall or across a whole secondary school, the shortness of the appointments, and the challenge to learn something meaningful.

It does seem incongruous to have to queue and shuffle in this age of instant messaging and open access. So it’s no wonder that an increasing number of schools, such as Sudbury Upper School and Arts College in Suffolk, have decided to address these problems by replacing parents’ evenings with "student review days".

On a student review day, the school closes for the whole day in order for pastoral tutors to spend 20 to 30 minutes with each student and their parents.

At Sudbury, the tutor is the key link between school and home, as the students keep the same tutor from Years 7 to 11. According to head teacher David Forrest, the initiative came from the parents themselves: "Since we were criticised in an Ofsted report for not communicating enough with parents, we now often meet with parents to discuss what works and what doesn’t, and about two years ago, parents felt that too much of their time in parents’ evenings was spent in queues, leaving them with too little time to talk to the staff. So now, we have 80 per cent of parents and their children attending two review days in the year, compared to the 50 per cent who would come by themselves to a parents’ evening and run out of time before they had seen all of their teachers."

There are, of course, downsides for the teachers, principally the massive effort needed behind the scenes to collect the data that enables the tutor to talk about each student in such an informed way. Yet such are the overall benefits in communication that the extra time is considered worth it.


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