Last week I had a number of conversations with parents about niggles regarding their child’s progress at school, friendship or peer group issues or lack of key information to enable them to support their teenager in making informed decisions about their future. It amazes me that rarely do they seem to have discussed their queries or concerns with the school, choosing instead to seek answers amongst other parents or work colleagues. All too often parents appear to feel they should not be ‘making a fuss’ or interfering in the work of the professionals, leaving responsibility for their child’s education in the hands of the school, until suddenly a relatively large and unforeseen major issue emerges, seemingly out of the blue.
Success for any child in education should be delivered through a partnership between school and home, where parents support and reinforce the education message delivered at school on an on-going basis at home. Waiting until the annual parents’ evening when teachers may have 100’s of other parents to speak to, as well as reading the twice yearly reports seldom gives parents an in-depth picture of their child’s contribution at school or whether they are working to their true academic potential in all subject areas and are well integrated socially.
Regular informal communication with key contacts at the school such as the class teacher, Head of Faculty, tutor or Head of Year, raising small worries as and when they occur, will assist parents to maintain an up-to-date picture of progress, behaviour, all-round participation in co-curricular opportunities and to quickly resolve small issues or concerns, before they have time to escalate, un-noticed into a crisis. If problems do arise in the future, well-established lines of communication and a supportive relationship between school and home will facilitate speedy identification and resolution. Familiarise yourself with the school pastoral care structure and follow the correct process for raising concerns. You will find details on the website or in the parent handbook
Pick your battles. Give rational consideration to your worry rather than flying off the handle. Form a balanced view taking account of all angles. Is it of enough significance to formally raise it? Remember that your child is unlikely to be in the right or truthful all of the time. Talk with them, try to get to the bottom of the issue and what might be causing it. You will then be able to talk to the right staff at the school when you have all the facts.
Avoid trying to resolve an issue regarding another child yourself, by talking to the child or their parents directly. Always address problems via the school. Addressing concerns diplomatically and reasonably is always a better option.
Catherine Stoker is Managing Director of the Independent Education Consultants, offering timely advice for parents on all aspects of education.