I have written several times in my blog about the assessment system that I have been working to introduce at school. If I’m honest, I realised this week that I have become a little obsessive about it! At the staff meeting on Wednesday, I was to introduce it to the rest of the school. Just before I opened my mouth to speak, I realised that I was unexpectedly nervous: I felt really protective over our work and the fact that I might have to defend it to others unsettled me. I’m really not sure why this should have bothered me, because when we introduced it to the parents, I was hoping the opportunity for defence would arise.
We have been using this system since Christmas, but we informed the parents of how the Termly Reports would change at the end of term 4. We had considered holding a meeting for parents, but instead opted to enclose a detailed letter of explanation with the reports. This letter invited the parents to come and discuss any concerns that they had with us. We sent the reports out a day early to allow the parents to come in to discuss them with us before the Easter holidays. So, the morning after the reports came, which was fortunately when we are on PPA: we were ready and waiting for the onslaught of concerned parents. They didn’t come. The end of the day came, the parents came, but still the visits didn’t come. The Easter holidays came and went, and still no parents. To date, I have spoken to 4 parents to offer explanations about how the reports work, what they mean and why, with the introduction of the new curriculum, there is some perceived drop in attainment for their child. I spent a few minutes with each of them, listening to their questions and reassuring them, hopefully alleviating their concerns. I think they all left happy, at least, happier than when they came. But all four of them have said that they know lots of other parents are concerned. I like to think that I am approachable and easy to talk to, I hope I’m not so scary that they would rather sit and stew at home than come and talk to me, so I wonder why many of them are sharing their concerns with other parents rather than talking to someone who can make them feel happier. One of the concerns raised about the report was a valid one, and so we are going to have a consultation with the parents to gain their opinions over possible changes. But I wonder how much of a response we will get.
It clearly takes time to build trusting relationships with parents. We are trying hard to provide positive opportunities for them to come in to the classrooms and see what we do. It’s having an impact: today, we invited the parents to come in a few minutes before the end of the day to share the children’s recent work and the classroom was buzzing. The children were clearly loving showing off what they have done and the parents seemed to be enjoying it. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, and we had a very good turnout. We are building relationships, but it seems we still have a way to go before the parents really do feel comfortable to come to us with some of their concerns. We want to be transparent: we really aren’t hiding anything from the parents with the assessments we are doing, but it isn’t possible to address everyone’s concerns without them sharing them with us. I know we are all busy people, and I know there are never enough hours in the day, but if a few minutes spent talking to a parent can help them to understand and prevent them from worrying, then surely it is time well spent.