Last time the spotlight was on the things to do before, during and after the parents’ evening at your child’s school. Compiling the questions to ask during the parent/teacher consultation is however such a crucial aspect of the process that I decided to make it a blog in its own right. If you missed the last blog, you may want to read it before this one for context… Access it here.
Although for most parents one of the topmost targets is for a child to excel academically, it is not advisable to focus on performance only at the parents’ evening. When speaking to the teachers, in addition to performance, you need to know if your child is putting in the right level of effort and how they are conducting themselves amongst their peers and in relation to the school authorities. I’ve outlined some questions under these broad categories in the following sections.
Knowing how much effort your child is putting in to their academics is essential. Some children are naturally gifted and can get good grades without putting in any effort. Not pulling any weight at all should be a cause for concern as it is effectively a ticking time bomb, I certainly can tell you that from my personal experience! Such a child is probably under-achieving even though they have good grades; and they could develop such a lazy mindset that it impacts them negatively later in life. This could manifest during A-levels, university years or even much later, when they start working.
Here are 3 questions to consider asking in relation to effort:
- What is the standard of my child’s homework; how often is it evident that they take pride in the presentation and quality of their work?
- What is my child’s attitude to learning; how often does my child arrive on time ready to learn with the correct equipment and a positive attitude?
- How often does my child participate in group work and/or contribute to classroom discussions during lessons?
No matter how gifted a child is, bad behaviour could be a serious hindrance to their progress and it must be tackled head on. An academically gifted child with a poor attitude is effectively on a self-sabotage mission.
By all means believe in your child but do not simply assume your child behaves the same way at school. Some children have the knack for being fairly well-behaved at home but behave badly outside of the home.
Here are 4 questions to consider asking in relation to behaviour:
- Which behaviour if any does my child display that may stop them from making the best progress they can make?
- How many negative points if any does my child have on the behaviour system and what are they for?
- Are there any particular times of the day, lessons or interactions with teachers in which my child behaves worse than other times? Why do you think this is?
- Does my child do what they are asked to do without arrogant questioning or comments and do they respect all adults in the school including cover teachers, teaching assistants and dinner staff?
This was something I had to work out when my sons were in school. Basically the UK system does not rank the pupils in a school year by their performance (at least not in the official reports you receive as a parent) and whether or not they meet the academic standards, they move on to the next school year. For example a teacher could tell me that my child is able to count up to one hundred but really what does that mean? Are they expected to count up to ten or one thousand at this stage? How do I know if they are falling behind or are ahead of the pack? A lot of teachers do not tell it as it is because of the guidelines they have to follow however with better questions, you will get a better picture.
Here are 5 questions to consider asking in relation to performance:
- What is the target grade for my child’s year group and where is my child in relation to that target?
- Can you offer some actions that my child can take to help them to achieve their target grade?
- What will the class be studying this term and what we can do at home, to support my child’s learning (if not already published).
- Are there different academic sets for this subject and if so which of the sets is my child in?
- Do you think this is a subject my child would excel at if taken as a GCSE/A-level option?
This last question is one I asked the subject teachers ahead of my sons’ GCSE and A-level years respectively. It is quite revealing, as although the teacher may not say YES or NO, they would probably tell you how much more was needed before that could become a strong possibility – such a response could be quite revealing.
Finally consider asking these 6 questions in general:
- What else I should know as the parent?
- Please provide some advice on where to download past papers and assessment schemes, useful YouTube videos, revision tips, study tips, exemplar answers etc.
- How can I make further contact with you (the teacher) for follow-up purposes?
- What else would you suggest we do at home?
- What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of my child?
- How can we work together to solve this problem (useful if there is an issue to resolve)?
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