Release them if you dare

See – Curriculum for Excellence – senior phase options

Option 37. No parent/teacher meetings in senior phase – replace with student/teacher review meetings – parents can shadow.

This might appear to one of the more extreme options to be considered but it’s worth holding back on an immediate reaction until further explained.

By the time students get into the senior phase (the last three years of upper secondary school education) they will have spent 13 years in the formal education system – with at least one, if not two, parent teacher consultations/interviews each year.

Parents are keen throughout that period to know how their child is progressing, know how they can help their child, and generally show an interest in their child’s education. In the early years of education this can be very helpful and builds a strong partnership between the student , the school and the parent.

Yet we still think that by attending parents evenings with our 16 or 17 year old child and think that we can influence them when we get home to up their rate of study or change their attitude to school. Some hope! (I know – because I was that parent!)

So perhaps it is time to consider alternatives?

I wrote a poem when my brother’s son was born which seems quite appropriate for this topic:


Take your child by the hand

and hold the future there

Keep him upright if you can

Release him if you dare

It’s this last line which most of us as parents have difficulty with, i.e. letting go. 

Yet within a year or two they are off to university, or college, or employment and we no longer have the influence we thought we had when they were at school.

So why is it that we don’t try to prepare young people for that transition from the claustrophobic atmosphere of  parental control (even if it is a fallacy)  – where we are metaphorically sitting on our child’s shoulder?

The concept of helicopter parents  has been well documented in the world of higher education – or “overparenting” – yet we, as parents, have been conditioned over the previous 15 years to think that we have to step in to protect and shape our child’s future.

Perhaps we need to consider breaking this umbilical cord whilst our children are still at school and get them to take more responsibility for their own progress? It’s at this point that the change from parent/teacher consultations to student/teacher consultations begins to take on more of logical perspective.

The idea would be based on a dialogue between the teacher and the student, at a time when the parent is available, but where the parent shadows their child and doesn’t interview the teacher.

In this way the responsibility for the learning process shifts from the parent to the child and the learning partnership between the teacher and the student is reinforced.

Of course, I know that many teachers and students would find this observed discussion to be extremely difficult. The tongue-tied student and the teacher who is uncomfortable speaking to the student as an equal is very easy to imagine. But if well managed through a conversation template. e.g Student: “this how I feel I’m doing in this  subject”; “This is how you could help me learn better” and Teacher: “You seem to be having problems with ……..” and “You are showing real promise in ………” and “If you were to try to ……………….”

The role of the parent is essentially observational but could have a concluding element where the student speaks to their parent in front of the teacher about their progress or otherwise.

I know this seems like a radical idea but when you see how ill-prepared young people really are for going off into the world of higher education or employment then anything which prepares them to be more independent and responsible learners has to be a good thing.




5 thoughts on “Release them if you dare

  1. Maybe I have totally got this wrong at every consultation evening… but if the student is there I speak to them direct… they are human beings… No adult would like to be spoken about whilst sat there listening…. I already do this… the student is always asked… how are you getting on and the discussion starts from that question, maybe it’s me?! ” I know that many teachers and students would find this observed discussion to be extremely difficult. The tongue-tied student and the teacher who is uncomfortable speaking to the student as an equal is very easy to imagine.” – really? Treat each person the way you want to be treated… we’re all working together to achieve the same thing? Why would I find it difficult to praise a student or tell them that they need to achieve more to get the grade they deserve? Maybe I’m in the wrong job! lol

  2. What a loss you would be. Better still why not work to ensure that what you do naturally with students becomes the norm for all teachers? Once again this is not to blame teachers or parents but simply to recognise that we have all been conditioned to play our respective roles in a particular way – even if it’s quite obvious that it needs to change.

  3. I totally agree with John. I’ve always made my two come to the parents evenings and some of the teachers – though not all – talk to them rather than me. This is particularly the case at the senior end of the school. I prefer this and I do think the students should be treated as adults and responsible for their own learning. They really do have to understand that whilst we as parents will support them, noone else is going to do the learning for them. The more responsibility they take for themselves (while understanding that they still have a responsibility to us, the parents and to the teachers) the better the end result.
    Having said that, I don’t think that all the teachers would be comfortable with this. I have had some quite odd encounters at parents evenings when certain teachers haven’t seemed to want to engage with the student there as well.
    I boarded for my senior schooling and there were several of us with parents on the other side of the world. They couldn’t drop in for parents evenings so we used to go round the teachers ourselves.

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