- Are parents’ nights the most effective way to engage parents in their child’s learning? In their current form, do they allow sufficient time for meaningful conversations about learning and progress?
- Do we have the capacity to increase the time that class teachers spend talking to parents about learning from P1 to P3, or is this feasible or even sustainable?
- What is the added value of having a three-way conversation between class teacher, child and parent?
- Do we take account of the best time for parents to speak to class teachers taking account of the context of our school and community?
PDF file: Learning conversations exemplar (185 KB)
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What was done?
The school wanted to try a new approach to parents’ evenings to include daytime appointments in an attempt to increase opportunities for parents to attend and promote the voice of the learner in meetings. They were aware from the start that extra time was needed to support this. A staff discussion was used to generate ideas and gather views.
The school made use of some additional capacity using supply staff and probationer time. The headteacher and PT covered classes to enable the class teachers for Primary 4 to Primary 7 to have a 30-minute learning conversation with each child. This required around two-days of cover for each teacher. However, the school recognises that this approach is not sustainable.
The class teacher then summarised the learning and progress of each child using a standard format. Most staff summarised the conversation during the meeting with the child. Time was set aside within the working time agreement for typing up notes after the meetings. This short report formed the basis of a further 30-minute learning conversation between the class teacher, parent and child.
Parents were able to provide comments. The report was then reviewed and signed off by the headteacher before being stored securely in the management information system.
In reviewing the learning conversations some adjustments have been made. For example, some parents wanted a few minutes to discuss their child’s progress with the teacher in private. The appointments have been reduced to 20 minutes, as 30 minutes was sufficient time for parents. Most parents attended agreed appointments during the school day, but non-attendance of appointments during the school day is not sustainable in terms of the financial cost involved. Evening appointments were offered to parents who did not attend during the day.
Pupil-teacher learning conversations continue to be conducted during class time in P4-P7. Subsequent parent, teacher and child after-school appointments were offered during November 2017, lasting 10-minutes. Uptake of appointments and feedback expressed by parents via a questionnaire indicated that parents are happy with this change.
The school plans to develop a system to record key milestones and notable events over time. For example, use of a scrapbook or diary approach and building a routine in to everyday classroom practice.
This approach was developed to increase parental engagement in their child’s learning and to give children a stronger voice and greater ownership of their learning and progress.
What was the impact?
Parental feedback indicated that parents valued finding out about their child’s progress since the child was present participating in the meeting. It is too early to say if there has been an impact on attainment. Combining the children’s own view of their progress with teacher views was helpful in stimulating meaningful discussion with parents. The language used by the children was shared with parents.
Children valued the quality time spent discussing their learning and progress individually with the class teacher. This helped to increase their confidence and identify their next steps in learning.
The success of the approach was strengthened the second time around as children, teachers and parents gained in confidence through experience.