10 Tips for Parents’ Evenings

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Paul Ainsworth

Paul has been writing for the Teacher Toolkit website since 2012 and is the author of 'No Silver Bullets: Day in, day out school improvement'. He is a system leader supporting primary schools, secondary schools and MATs currently with with Infinity Academies Trust as Education...
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How do you prepare for parents’ evenings? As a teacher, or as a parent?

There is no doubt that many teachers find their role stressful. We all have different trigger points. This can range from the working mark load, dealing with disruptive pupils or classes to the bullying boss. I often found that my biggest form of anxiety was dealing with the parents of children. My whole week could be derailed by the ranting parent making a complaint, especially when I felt we were doing everything that we possibly could for their child.

I’m not sure if I have become better at managing parents over my career, but I have certainly found different strategies to use and as my own children grow older, I certainly understand the anxiety of parents better.

There are generally three types of interactions that we have as parents. There is;

  1. the appointment at parents evening,
  2. the parent telephone call and
  3. the one-to-one meeting.

shutterstock_145327873 Kindergarten Preschool Classroom Interior school parents evening chairs

Image: Shutterstock

Over the next few blogs, I am going to suggest some strategies you can use for ‘parent behaviour management’ which you can trial and hopefully reduce some of your stress. My starting point is looking at parents evenings.

10 Tips for Parent’s Evening:

  1. Parent’s evenings are often held when we are tired and hungry at the end of the day. Some schools will have an effective drinks supply. but even this can fail! So, make sure you’ve got your own bottle of water, an insulated flask for a cup for tea/coffee and some nibbles to keep you going. (You can’t beat banana chips …)
  2. Who knows if you are going to be sat by the draughty door or if the radiator is on turbo boost?! Either way, make sure you’ve got those layers on as if you’re preparing for a spring walk.
  3. We can all forget a name sometimes, so why not ask one of your ICT whizzy colleagues to help you with an electronic mark book? It could include the photographs of the children you teach.
  4. Have your schedule pinned up where parents can see it. E.g. enlarge it to A3 in size and stick it to the back of the chair, or if you’re in a classroom, on the door!
  5. Be relentlessly polite. At my first ever parents evening, I still remember the very experienced classroom teacher drilling it in to me: always stand up, shake hands and greet every parent with a smile.
  6. Apologise at the beginning of each appointment that you only have 5 minutes. Use you phone as a timer. The parent who has sat in a big queue to see you will not be happy, so you have to try to stick to time.
  7. Plan out your script for parents evening which you then stick too. Why not consider: a. What you have been teaching the children? (1 minute) b. What is the child’s progress/attainment? (1 minute) c. What are the child’s strengths? (1 minute d. What the child can improve upon? (1 minute) e. Any questions? (1 minute)
  8. Make sure your marking is up to-date. Parents will complain if it isn’t. Then show the parents their children’s work and highlight what they are doing well and where they need to improve. Many parents will not have looked in their children’s books.
  9. Starting off an appointment with criticism of a child’s behaviour can make parents defensive and sometime aggressive, however true your comments are. So instead, word these concerns as to how they could make more progress. A poorly behaved child is likely to have less in their books or it may be not presented well, so discuss this instead.
  10. Even after doing all this some parents will be tricky for a whole range of reasons, which have nothing to do with you. So, make the most of the conversations with positive parents and enjoy the opportunity to praise those children who are working hard for you. Even with the most recalcitrant, always thank them for their time.

Finally, one tip for after parents evening, try and give yourself a treat whether it is brisk walk with your dog, 20 minutes on the tread mill, chips from the chippie, a glass of wine or your favourite chocolate? After all, you deserve it!

Paul K. Ainsworth writes for Teacher Toolkit.

  • He is an academy advisor for a large Multi-Academy Trust supporting primary and secondary schools. Paul has 15+ years senior leadership experience, including being the headteacher of a secondary school; he is also the chair of governors for two primary schools.
  • Paul writes for many educational publications and is regularly approached to speak at national teaching conferences. He recently spoke at TEDx Pocklington. 
  • His books include; Bloomsbury CPD Library: Middle Leadership, The Senior Leader’s Yearbook and Get that Teaching Job.
  • Follow him at @PKAinsworth.
  • Contact Paul here.
Paul K Ainsworth
Paul K. Ainsworth








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4 thoughts on “10 Tips for Parents’ Evenings

  1. Here’s tip #11: try not to be as condescending to parents as the author of this article. They don’t need to be “managed”. They need to be respected as partners in education.

    1. Fair point… but if you have to see over 100 parents in 3 hours, frankly it does need to be managed. Secondly, for teachers new to parent conversations, it is vital that they learn how to support and challenge student progress with the view that parents are part of the partnership. Not every parental conversation is smooth, but the vast majority are.

      1. Parent-teacher conferences are not designed for meaningful dialogue, I agree. (see “The Essential Conversation” by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot). However, implying that the exercise will consist of trying to navigate a tricky series of complaints, criticisms and forced smiles doesn’t help build bridges. After all, as Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot says, we are all there for the same reason – the “teacher’s student and the parent’s child”. Sharing information (including parent knowledge) begins the process of understanding what the parent can do and not just who they are (Dr. Janet Goodall, Bath U.).

      2. Noted. Teaching very challenging students and teaching 20 hours weeks, sometimes for 6 hours and then having a 3 hour meeting with parents is exhausting for many teachers. The structure of how parents evenings are set up is half the problem. Strategies suggested here are for surviving rather than thriving – which is many ways, is a sad indication of the challenges many teachers face.

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