Schools in the UK have been urged to consider making online parents' evenings a permanent fixture following their success during lockdown.
It currently remains to be seen whether head teachers will opt to do them in-person again following the lifting of lockdown restrictions. However, parents and teachers alike seem to be in agreement that there’s little benefit in doing so.
During lockdown in May, the then Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, stated confidently that parents’ evenings would “never be the same again".
"Zoom for parents' evenings is much better than trying to find a car-parking space on a wet Tuesday and waiting your turn," he said.
Educational-technology adviser and London Borough of Havering senior inspector Dave Smith was in agreement, arguing there was no need to revert to type, with the online form having proved “very successful”.
He explained how the online meetings give parents and carers additional flexibility to attend, when previously they might have struggled due to work or other commitments.
There are additional benefits too, BBC News explains, particularly for parents separated by divorce, with technology enabling both to attend “without awkwardness”.
The problem of appointments over-running was also solved by video conferencing services, thanks to a countdown clock and shut-off for each appointment. However, schools will need to ensure they are allowing enough time in a call to outline progress made by pupils, next steps for learning, and to provide an opportunity for parents/carers to ask questions.
There is also potentially an issue around how many parents can get access to the video conferencing technology which is required to enable online parents’ evenings. But, the hope and expectation will be that home-schooling and working during lockdown means most households are set up for remote meetings.
Smith says there will be occasions when an in-person meeting is more appropriate – when discussing sensitive issues, for example – but that there’s no reason why online parents' evenings shouldn’t be “here to stay”.