Regular communication with your school is an essential part of supporting your child’s education. All too often parents think that they can leave everything to the school and gradually dis-engage until an issue arises. It is important to know who and when to contact at your school on an on-going basis in order to get the best out of your child’s education and provide the right level of support at home. You will need to establish who the key contact people are, how to communicate on a daily basis, how to find out about general activities, what to do in an emergency and possibly how to complain effectively!
Here are some basic guidelines:
It is easier getting sorted at the beginning of your child’s education since there are fewer points of contact required. At primary school or pre-prep school, the key contacts are the class teacher, school secretary, Deputy Head and Head.
At this stage, generally, it is the classroom teacher whom is responsible for your child’s pastoral care and overall wellbeing and he/she will be your first point of contact for all concerns.
Make sure you get the school’s contact details, both phone and email, at the beginning of the term and save them for easy use.
Decide between yourself and your partner who will be the initial point of contact for day-to-day communications. If you are separated from your partner, you are both entitled to receive regular updates. Ensure the school is aware of your situation and how this might affect your child and request double copies of all communications, as well as termly/annual reports.
Prepare for change of plans or emergencies
Agree who will be the first point of contact in case of an emergency with your child. Ensure you have discussed how it will work if you need to leave work in the middle of the day and what are the contingency plans if you can’t get back quickly. A strong family or friend network is critical here to ensure there is someone nearby who can help if necessary.
Understand how flexible your school is about drop off and collection times. Some schools are much stricter than others and you can quickly become persona non grata if you keep bending the rules by arriving 15 minutes late! If there is limited pre or after school care, you will need to have a plan in place for when you miss that critical pick-up time due to a delayed meeting or need to have an earlier start on the odd occasion.
Most day to day information about activities and general notices are send out via email, text or are posted on the schools website on a regular basis. You should be able to get hard copies of some information, but often you now have to request this.
Effective day-to-day communication
- At drop off or collection time: Some day schools operate a open door policy whereby you can see the teacher every day when you bring in or collect your child at the beginning and end of the day. This will allow you to discuss any burning concerns. However use this time wisely, teachers will not have sufficient time to discuss your child on a daily basis. This time should be used to mention any current events that might be affecting your child’s attitude to or performance at school; such as a family occasion causing a late night, a pet’s death, a fall out amongst a peer group that is causing upset etc.
- The day book: Most schools employ an individual record book system to allow parents and teachers to communicate on a daily basis, with what has been done at home to support the child and for the teacher to highlight any issues or successes that have occurred during the day at school. The book is generally used to record progress with reading, timetables, project work and any independent work. It is generally sent home with the reading book every night. Each entry should be dated to allow you to track progress over time and review previous entries/comments.
- By Email: Most schools publish a full list of contact details for all teaching and support staff employed. In general they are very happy to be contacted online since this allows them to communicate at a time at suits them and enables to you ask very specific questions if necessary.
If you have an issue with a particular area; such as concerns over the maths curriculum, a poor performing teacher and perhaps an incident handling a child, you should start by checking the school’s policy on complaints. All schools are required by law to publish their complaints procedure. You will usually find this on the website or in your parent information pack, but if not, request a copy from the school secretary.
Generally you start by discussing your worries with the class teacher, however, in some instances it might be better to communicate directly with the teacher in charge of the specific subject area or staff member responsible for pastoral care. Areas of responsibility will all be listed on the school website or in the printed school calendar if you are given one. If this does not produce a satisfactory outcome, you can make an appointment with the Head Teacher.
The school governors are the next port of call. They are entitled by law to review all communication sent to them during their meetings, so all issues are aired. If parents are looking for change on a specific area, their best approach is to organise a number of communications from different parents on the same issue. This will ensure they receive a response from the governors on how it is being approached and what changes, if any, will be made. Remember to make sure your complaint is really justified and not personal or petty; only genuine complaints will acted upon.