Are virtual parents' evenings here to stay beyond Covid?
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School parents' evenings could be set to remain online beyond the coronavirus pandemic following positive feedback for virtual meetings.
The government's education catch-up tsar Sir Kevan Collins told a House of Lords committee last week that video calls were "much better than trying to find a parking space on a wet Tuesday and waiting your turn".
The National Association of Head Teachers said it hoped to see a hybrid model for such events in the future.
During lockdown schools and colleges across Norfolk replaced face-to-face parents evenings with either phone calls or video feedback using specialist video platforms like SchoolCloud that allow parents to book appointments.
In a letter to parents Taverham High School, one of the schools to use video links for parental feedback this year, said: “We do appreciate that these are important conversations, especially after students experienced major disruption to their learning during the first lockdown, so rather than simply communicating by email or phone we are using a new system of video conferencing.”
Virtual meetings provide greater flexibility for parents and teachers, with regard to childcare arrangements, and were "sharp and focused" and did not overrun with some schools offering specific timed slots.
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Schools reported that initial IT problems had been ironed out but conceded that virtual appointments "can never be compared to face-to-face meetings".
Norwich parent Sarah Davies, whose daughters are in Years 5 and 8, said: “It’s been a necessity because of the pandemic and I’ve found it has worked well, but I think there should always be the option of a face-to-face meeting.
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“I’d be unhappy if this became the default, even if it is convenient.”
Former local head Geoff Barton, who is now general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union, said we could see a mixture of face-to-face and online meetings in the future.
“It would have seemed inconceivable to many of us even a couple of years ago that we would seriously be talking about online parent evenings being a reality," he said.
“Some schools and colleges will still prefer the face-to-face contact they get at a traditional parent evening but, for many, meeting online will be a more convenient way for parents to receive important feedback on their child’s progress and encourage higher levels of engagement in future.”