I have been working with my team to look at ways to make communication more effective, considering how assessment and parental and student access to it can drive this. I have included the initial conversation paper that i shared with them to begin our conversation.
The first stop in this journey for me is that the mode of parent teacher evenings are out-dated. Parents scampering across corridors to try and see all of their children’s teachers or specialists for that all important 5 minutes, which we all know is not enough, yet we are still doing it.
When we add something into the programme there is a need to look at what we are also moving out or evolving. For me the element that is not working is the parent teacher meeting and therefore I believe a change in the communication agenda is our opportunity to re imagine what parents want from communication and in what format and what we do better to support them, to ensure the kids are the winners at the end of the day.
The catalyst for parent teacher meetings generally are the publication of a report or assessment information that we want to share with parents and discuss. For me these are the wrong reasons, they should be part of the conversation but I believe parents should already have access to this information through the availability of live assessment information. With the variety of communication technology available we need to be smarter about how we allow parents to access the classroom and their child within it.
The mentality when I began my career was to withhold internal data as that was ours and to only give parents what they 'need' to know. As shallow as this thinking was its influence can still be seen in our profession and is not supporting parents, student or the teacher.
To fully engage parents as partners in the process we need to ensure that they are also an informed partner and live assessment allows this. When parents and teachers do meet we are quickly able to get down to what we all already know and what we can do about it as well as broadening the conversation to include key elements such as wellbeing, friendships, confidence and development of the child’s identity.
If the parent teacher evenings were driven less by the feedback of reports or assessments because of their continuous availability to parents already, then we could look to do away with set evenings with parents rushing round corridors, or days where we are losing learning to a more continual cycle of ongoing face to face conversations and phone calls, with a frequency that makes the parent teacher meeting an obsolete process in the school. The recent Y9 and Y11 individualised and personalised face to face consultations to discuss subject choices are a great example of how this can be achieved with a heightened sense of engagement and personalisation.
I have had a series of conversations about School Management Systems (SMS) recently and what is becoming more clear is that our SMS is not working efficiently enough with us and the tools that we want to overlay across this (Classroom Monitor, Go For Schools, Seesaw…) we need tech to take the stress out of these situations for us. I also want to visit schools using combinations of these platforms to ensure that we are building a framework for live assessment to carry us into the next few years for the school.
Amongst this shift in communication and advocacy I think there is an opportunity to build something more effective and sustainable that what we currently have.