# Early Bird Maths

I shared some pictures of my most recent Early Bird Maths Smartboard file on Twitter. I asked if anyone would be interested in them, expecting a handful of people to ask. I did not expect over 30 people to express an interest. So, I have put the resources, along with a little explanation, in this blog. Thank you for your interest! I hope you find them useful. please note that I only started making these resources at the end of the Autumn Term.

I got this idea from my visit of Parklands school in Leeds (the famous Chris Dyson). Brooke Nolan, the Maths lead at Parklands, shared some of her resources and showed me it in action on my school visit. I have been doing it for two months now and the difference it has made has made has been incredible. Well worth the effort! The average percentage on an end of Year 5 arithmetic paper have gone from 43% the first week of this academic year to 77% on the first week of Spring 1. My lowest score has gone from 13% to 41% too so works for all the kids. An incredible difference. My aim now is to see if I can get the average to around 80-85% and increase the lowest score to somewhere above 50%. As I say to my class, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish!”

Spring 2 update: the lowest score is now 59% and the average score is up to 87%. Very happy with that!

The Early Bird Maths is worked on for the first 20-25 minutes of every day. Monday and Friday they do it completely on their own. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday my LSA and I move around the classroom and work with specific children who struggled with certain questions from the previous day before leaving them to attempt the most recent version. All I do is change the numbers of each question and occasionally the format of a couple. Most of the questions are based on previous work we have covered (recap) or things which I spotted they’d made mistakes in their end of Term (White Rose) assessments and the half termly end of year 5 arithmetic papers. The kids have 15-20 minutes to complete the questions (depending on how many there are, how many are written method practise and how difficult they are) and then I work them out out loud or on a flipchart so all the kids can see. They mark their questions. I put them in three groups depending on how they’ve done. Lowest group for me to work with later on in the week, middle group for my LSA and top group I make sure have completed my bonus question. Sometimes I give them an even harder bonus question. We have separate books which the Early Bird Maths goes in, which makes it so much easier.

I have included some examples from Parklands so please only use these for yourself. Don’t share them about. If you do your own versions, I would appreciate it if your shared some in return as no doubt you will have different and better ideas for questions or format.

N.B. Don’t sell these on TES.

Here’s a Dropbox link to download the files I have created so far (updated with a few files on 10th March):

Mark Gilbranch

# The Scottish Play (Macbeth)

For the last three weeks of the Spring Term, Year 5 have been studying Macbeth. It is a unit I have used almost every year since I started teaching 14 years ago. I have used it in Year 4, 5 and 6.

I use a combination of the BBC School Radio Macbeth resources, an active story telling resource which a colleague gave to me many years ago (I have no idea where this is from), Mantle of Expert approaches and standard lessons etc.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0572w00

N.B. – I have shared my resources here (Google Drive link) for now and I will write a more detailed blog during the Easter holidays.

Mark Gilbranch

# Fast Five / Super Six Grammar Work

Inspired by my Early Bird Maths success, I have come up with a Grammar equivalent.

It’s simple! 5 or 6 questions based on common errors the class make or key year 5 writing skills. The children then mark them afterwards once I have gone through explaining the answers. It takes between 15-20 minutes to complete and mark.

I record who struggles each day and then work with them the following day.

I am by no means a grammar expert so please let me know if I have mucked anything up.

Here’s the Dropbox link with all the resources I use to help me create the Smartboard files.

Mark

It’s been a while! Almost three years in fact since I last blogged about anything. So, I suppose I better write about something. I spent some time today, while my wife was working on her Masters dissertation, writing some new reading resources to use with my class so I thought that would be a good place to start.

Last year, my colleagues and I spent time collaboratively discussing, researching and experimenting how best to teach reading to the children in our school. The usual Guided Reading Carousel vs Whole Class Teaching debate reared its head. We still disagree on what’s best; however, what we did agree on was that we needed to improve our teaching of explicit reading skills. We needed to know exactly what skills we wanted to teach and what these would look like. Teaching children to be ‘good readers’ is an incredibly complex process but if we could improve the clarity of the skills we are teaching and the manner in which they were taught this would be a good starting point to work on this year.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, myself and a colleague spent some time on Twitter searching for ideas, opinions and places to start. There wasn’t a shortage! What an amazing CPD resource! We settled on using Rob Smith’s excellent VIPERS resources (Twitter handle: @redgierob) . I will not go into detail about them as there are some great blogs on Rob’s website (Literacy Shed) which explain it much better than I could. See the link below for the blog post:

I must also thank Ashley Booth (@MrBoothY6), Jo Payne (@MrsPTeach) and Rhoda Wilson (@TemplarWilson), for their excellent blogs on reading comprehension. Rhoda produced an amazing free resource based on one of (if not my favourite) children’s books – The Boy In The Tower by Polly Ho-Yen. These teachers have all had a huge impact on my teaching of reading and I can’t thank them enough. I posted links to some of their blogs including a link to Rhoda’s amazing resource.

Click to access boy-in-the-tower-planning-and-resource-booklet.pdf

Inspired by these generous teachers, I have decided (with permission from Rob Smith) to share my Reading Vipers resources which I created based around the book Ma’at’s Feather by Juliet Desailly. They regularly share free resources they have spent time creating so I thought I would do so myself. I created these resources with Year 4/5 in mind but they are still a work in progress as I have to create the Non-fiction comprehension sheets linked to specific chapters in the book. The poem included is one which I wrote myself to ensure I could cover several vocabulary questions.

These resources haven’t been road tested with my class yet so please feel free to read, use or simple let me know what you think. I hope to tweak these resources as I try them out and add other resources as we work on different books throughout this year. Thanks for reading!

1. Prologue

2. Ch 2

3. Poem

4. Ch 4

5. Ch 6

6. Ch 8

7. Non-fiction – Tombs + Life After Death

8. Ch 10

9. Ch 12

10. Epilogue

Poem – the Nile

# Rugby World Cup 2015 Competition

Inspired by some resources which @grahamandre shared on his fabulous Maths Shed website, I decided to create a game which my class can play whilst the Rugby World Cup is being played. It is a sweep stake type game similar to one which I haved played for previous football tournaments.

The rules are simple. Each child will have 50 credits to spend. They can buy as many teams as they can with a maximum of two teams from any one Pool. They can decide not to buy any teams from a Pool if they would rather spend their credits in another Pool. Deciding which teams to buy and how to spend their credits will lead to some interesting discussions – fingers crossed!

After each week of games we will study the results and the children will score points based on the performance of their chosen teams (see sheet for specific point scoring criteria).

I have bought some Rugby World Cup merchandise as prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd and a wooden sppon for the person who finishes last. I hope this will be a bit of fun and promote an interest of the game and compeition. Who knows they may even decide to play the sport or even learn something about the countries which were involved!

I may even get the staff and parents involved. A mini rugby revolution!

Below is the link to the game sheet.

Rugby World Cup Game Sheet

I’ve also included links to some posters which can be used to help stimulate discussion about the World Cup in case there are children in the class who are unfamiliar with the sport or competition. These posters have been included with permission from Graham Andre (Maths Shed).

rugbyworldcupnumbers

# Creative Thinking Journals

It has been a while since I last blogged! The Summer term has been pretty busy.

So, after a a blogging hiatus, I thought I’d celebrate the end of the year in style. Well, by writing a blog at least.

After another successful Primary Rocks chat on Twitter a few weeks ago, I had a couple of people (@Y6Teacher and MissSMerrill) ask about how Creative Thinking Journals work in my Year 5 class. I aim, in the post, below to share how they work, why we do them and hopefully begin to tease out the benefits.

Firstly, in our school like in many other schools, homework is a bit of a devisive beast. Some parents and children love it and want more; others hate it a wish it would vanish like members of the family when it time for someone to wash up after a Sunday roast dinner. This year, the class LSA and I embarked on a bit of a mission to try and create a homework which children enjoyed and relished completing. And so the Creative Thinking Journal was born! Before moving on I must say that the class LSA is somewhat of an Art specilaist, spending a huge amount of time and effort developing her skills and talents. This has helped as the children have been inspired by her brilliance and my attempts to try and match her creativity.

How It Works

At the start of the year the children were given a decent quality art sketch book. They were told to cover it however they liked; photos, newspaper, drawings etc. We then covered their books in clear plastic to ensure they lasted the year. This in itself got the project off to a great start as some of the children went wild. I haven’t got any photos but their ideas were brilliant.

Each week the children then receive a short prompt which is stuck in their books (See pictures below for examples). The book ‘Wreck This Journal’ was a great starting point; however, thinking up different ideas wasn’t difficult once we started.Some weeks we included a larger prompt and slightly longer piece which we dicsused at the end of an Art lesson.

Each prompt is followed by a short discussion, an ideas brainstorm and the sharing of two examples completed by myself and the LSA. Even though the emphasis has been on creativity, we wanted to at least give them an example of what we expected. We found that not only did sharing examples lead to an improve qaulity of work when compared to the previous year’s Journals, BUT in addition it actually seemed to lead to more creative ideas. Why this was the case I am not sure. I’m sure someone expert would know but I reckon that having an idea of what the final piece COULD look like allowed them a point of reference when coming up with something different, creative or imaginative.

Here are a selection of photos of some of the pieces handed in. Hopefully, the work shows why it has been worth the effort getting the Journals of the ground again this year. We were pleased with how the children engaged in the tasks and the quality of work produced.

# For the Children or for Ofsted?

I began blogging to share practical strategies, which I use in my classroom, and get ideas and thoughts back in return. My intention was to avoid involving myself in discussions about bureaucracy. However, this blog is a break from my norm! Recently, I have been thinking about the impact Ofsted has on the workload of teachers and particularly my own. I am fully aware that this is not cutting-edge or new. It seems to be very much on the agenda (in vogue if you will) at the moment, with the workload mantras of Tristram Hunt and Nicky Morgan echoing around the political election landscape at present. On a more personal level, I have pondered why we do certain things at our school, who they are for and the impact these have. Watching Mary Myatt’s presentation at the recent London TeachMeet struck a cord and added fuel to the metaphorical fire. After much thought, I am in limbo. I am none the wiser. Undecided! A question seems to roll around in my head going unanswered.

Do what is best for the children not Ofsted OR ignore them at your peril?

My hope is that this blog will go some distance to helping me begin to answer this question. Firstly, by writing this blog it will help me organise my thoughts. Getting them down on paper, if nothing else, will clarify them. Secondly, I hope that people who read this blog will offer me their thoughts and opinions. The reason why I have swayed back and forth from one side of this question to the other is it is not a simple question. I understand and agree with both sides of the debate. I understand why it is important to do what we do for the children and NOT Ofsted, but I also understand the pressure and desire to ‘impress’ Ofsted.

As I mentioned earlier, watching Mary’s presentation struck a cord and her comment that ‘schools shouldn’t be run for Ofsted teams, they should be run for the students’ resonated strongly. I have always thought that the way schools are run is very much Ofsted focussed. Do we care more, at times, about what the inspectors think and say over the opinions of others? I worked in a school that Required Improvement and am now working in a school which is striving to earn the coveted Outstanding crown. Both are very different schools but plagued by the same problem. They are trying to impress Ofsted first. Focussing on pleasing these relative strangers, comes at a cost. I have found that it inevitably leads to an increase in the amount of paper work, data collection and evidencing. Not only does this dramatically increase the workload but high demand for evidence can also create a feeling of distrust – having to prove things frequently. The churning out of paperwork and in some cases duplication is the single most frustrating issue for me at this current juncture. I get why it is demanded but I don’t agree with the point of it. Often it is being produced purely for an inspection. An easy way to ‘prove’ something to an inspection team is to produce the paper trail which ticks the box. This is easy to do and creates the illusion that things are being done, but I don’t believe this is adequate. In some cases the paper work is completed and nothing actually changes as a result. This fact, even when challenged, doesn’t change.

On the other hand, this belief has been quickly and frequently countered by an opposing view. It is very easy to say we should organise our schools focussing on what is best for a children rather than what we think Ofsted may or may not want to see, but it is difficult to actually follow this through. What Ofsted think and how they grade your school matters. It counts! Parents will read the report, pupils will hear about it, members of the local community will base their opinion of the school on it and the result will have an impact on the staff. If your focus isn’t on ‘pleasing’ Ofsted and you get it wrong, then are you opening the school up to difficulty?

So…I have no answer. I don’t know which side of the fence I sit on. I agree and understand both sides of the argument. I want to work in a school which is run for the benefit of the children and considers the impact that the way the school is run has on the staff, but I know and understand why management teams focus on Ofsted. Can both sides to this tale be considered? Can both stances be covered? Can they go hand in hand?

Finally, assuming schools adopt the stance of organising their systems according to what is best for the children and NOT what’s best for Ofsted, how does this work in practise? What does it look like? How can it be done well? As Mary also mentioned in her presentation, what is good works and what works is good. How do we do what is good for both our children and Ofsted? Any practical solutions or ideas anyone?

# Mission Maths

For the last term, I have been experimenting with and tweaking how I plan, organise and teach maths. Changing schools at the beginning of this academic year has given me the ideal opportunity to reflect on the way I do things. This is the first post on this and as I develop the ideas I will write further posts. All comments and ideas welcome, as long as they are constructive that is!

Why the need for change?

I have always enjoyed and been fairly successful when it came to teaching maths (even if I do say so myself). I enjoy teaching the subject, the children enjoy thinking mathematically and learning about the subject and make progress. However, saying this, my organisation and planning hasn’t always been the most structured or necessarily coherent process at times. With this in mind, I have begun to develop a structure to use when planning and teaching specific blocks or units of work. I wanted to pull together three key concepts which I believe have played a part in the success in the classroom to date: self-selecting of levelled lesson work, assessment, and a clear teaching sequence (review, teach, practise, apply, and review). Input from Gareth Metcalfe via Twitter (@gareth_metcalfe) has been invaluable. I would recommend following this gentleman if you haven’t already.

The school I moved to last Summer had already put in a lot of work converting the ‘old blocks’ (A1, B2, C3 etc.) so that each would incorporate new objectives and fit the New Curriculum. Are they perfect? No! There are things which need tweaking and changing slightly and will be added to as we go. However, do they provide a structure to help teachers think about their planning (Pitch and Expectations)? Definitely! Alongside our new assessment system for Maths (Assertive Mentoring), they provide a picture of where each child and class are at and where to go next. Please note that we have also started the process of tweaking and changing the Assertive Mentoring system model so it fits how we want we want it to work in our school.

Where do I go after that?

Using the assessment system (half termly tests and teacher assessment), gaps are identified in both the children’s individual knowledge and the class’s knowledge as a whole. This gap analysis is then used in conjunction with the planning framework (blocks) to plan out a method of attack. Which of the gaps are we going to tackle and when? How does this fit into the overall framework? For example if the children are struggling with adding and subtracting fractions this would be tackled in a block or unit (3 or 4 weeks) on fractions (equivalent fractions, comparing and ordering fractions and adding and subtracting fractions including different denominators) rather than on its own. The overall block framework ensures that the lesson planning process doesn’t just become a knee-jerk reaction to the assessments (teaching to the test).

Once a block or unit (3 or 4 weeks) is decided upon, it is broken down into smaller chunks. No point trying to eat the elephant all in one go! Our weekly timetable includes 5 maths lessons of which 4 are reserved for our block or unit and one is specifically used for Maths Skills development. Therefore a block may take 12-16 lessons. Each block may be broken down into smaller elements. The structure is flexible and requires teachers to use their professional judgement when deciding how long to teach each part of the unit and how best teach it.

Here is a rough progression for a recently taught fractions block:

• Calculating equivalent fraction by multiplying and dividing (simplifying) – recap
• Adding and subtracting fractions with the same denominator (including commutativity)
• Adding and subtracting fractions by converting one fraction (3/4 + 6/8)
• As above but converting all fractions using a common denominator
• Adding and subtracting fractions, decimals and percentages
• Move onto comparing and ordering fractions, decimals and percentages

I am under no allusions that this rough progression may not be the correct or best way of teaching it but it has worked well in the past. I started by revisiting equivalent fractions. Unashamedly, much of the work early on was mixed ability whole class instruction with the children selecting the level of difficulty of the work they began on. Once completed, this work was marked and formed the basis of the next lesson. I identified a ‘Misconception’, ‘Consolidation’ and ‘Extension or Challenge’ group. I (the class teacher) worked with the Misconception group to make sure nobody was left behind, the TA/LSA worked with the Consolidation group on further practise questions or their Next Steps from the marking and I set the Extension or Challenge group a task to complete in small groups or independently.

Sometimes I use Gareth Metcalfe’s First Class Maths and Maths Apprentice resources, alongside Nrich and other website resources, for these extension or challenge activities. These may be left until further on through the unit, once more content has been covered. For example on the fraction unit progression above, we worked through until the whole class have covered adding and subtracting fractions using common dominators before moving the children who were confident and accurate onto problems and puzzles which relied on Applying what they’d learnt. This gave us further time to consolidate with the other children.

Points for Consideration

As I said earlier I am not an expert in the area. I think about the best way of teaching content and concepts but I am not always right. In fact, shock horror, I get it wrong! This approach is one that I have been experimenting with this term but parts of it (e.g. self-selecting of levelled lesson work) I have been using for some time. I have been pleased with the impact this approach has had and my HT, having seen it in action in the classroom a number of times now, is keen for it to be shared around the school. Saying this, it isn’t perfect and doesn’t always work. I am constantly adapting and tweaking. Please feel free to suggest any other ideas or options which I haven’t yet thought of or stumbled across.

Although guided by a few fundamental principles that enable it to work successfully, this approach firmly places autonomy into the hands of the teachers. Know what you have to cover in your year group, find out where the children in your class are in their mathematical development, set up the open ethos in your class in which children are prepared to work hard, get things wrong and challenge themselves, and how exactly it is organised in ‘your’ classroom is up to you. If you want more group work – great, if you want to vary who the LSA and class teacher work with – go ahead, if you want to teach certain elements in a different order because you think it will make it easier to understand – marvellous, this is what is so wonderful about our job: there are many different ways to metaphorically ‘cross the river’.

A video of this approach working in Gareth’s class

http://youtu.be/XfM5QX0QbFo

A link to the First Class Maths (Maths Apprentice resource available on the same website)

http://www.thecepress.com/shop/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=109

# Assessing Writing (Levels)

It has been over three months since I last blogged. It started off so well, completing two blogs in November after beginning my Blog earlier the same month (amazingly impressive I know), but things have been a little busy since then. Saying this, a recent Twitter thread and set of comments on Facebook have inspired me to put my thoughts down in black and white again (for whatever they’re worth). Before I start, I am by no means an expert in this area and am merely offering my thoughts and opinions on the matter. If I am ill-informed or misinterpreting something, then please don’t shoot me! Also, I am not criticising anyone involved, but instead, highlighting what I believe is a flaw in the system within which we all work, so fastidiously may I add! I welcome any feedback, advice or help so please feel free to comment.

There is no denying that this sort of response was and is amazing, especially when you consider that so many teachers are incredibly busy at present. However, the thread left me slightly perplexed. The range of levels suggested for this one piece of writing varied from 3a all the way up to a level 6! This for me highlights a bit of a problem.

The Problem

How can there be such a wide range of opinions as to what ‘level’ a child is working at? How can assessing writing be full of such subjectivity? Can we reliably assess a child’s writing from one piece of writing?

and the bigger issue in my opinion

Such subjective discussions around ‘levels’ both detract and distract from the most important questions. What has the child done well? What do they need to fix? What can they do to fix this? How can we go about helping this process?

This year has been challenging in regard to the assessment of writing. Removal of the assessment system, and with nothing being offered in place of it, has meant that, particularly on a personal level, uncertainty has increased and I’ve worried more than in the past about assessing children’s writing accurately. I find myself regularly asking what ‘good’ year 5 writing looks like now. I know I am not alone in this as others in my own school are struggling with this also and I very much doubt that we are the only school unsure at this present time. Is there a solution? Can this be fixed?

Solutions

I am not sure if this issue can be fixed overnight and I am certainly not saying I have all the answers. I don’t! But here are my initial thoughts, which I intend to begin to discuss with my SLT and work colleagues when we go back to school after half term. They may help. They may be utterly useless but they will hopefully start a dialogue which will lead to a clearer understanding of the assessment of writing and its role in driving up standards.

With the removal of a nationally agreed assessment system (old NC levels), there is an opportunity to devise and take ownership over the assessment procedures and systems we use in our schools, ensuring they make sense for the teachers that use them and that they are useful for the children. Jason Hughes (@jhughes71) recently shared his school’s writing assessment sheets and has since given me permission to not only use them in my class (and hopefully school) but share them on this blog. For this I am hugely grateful as they have helped me no end. I think these are a fabulous example of an assessment system designed with the primary aim of helping improve children’s writing and not just ‘level’ their writing. They are clear, specific and more importantly accessible. Take a look for yourself! dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/44908324/Writing assessment grid St.1-6 @.pdf

These sheets will be useful I feel, in helping tackle the first part of the problem mentioned earlier. They offer a relatively simple, clear and explicit set of criteria for all the staff to use. Instead of vague criteria like ‘Can write in a lively and imaginative way’ they begin to define what such statements mean and more importantly what this may look like. Obviously, we will need to organise some training and writing moderation in regards to these criteria sheets but this is all part of the process.

During the first half of the Spring Term, I have used these to inform my assessment of the children’s writing (in Target Tracker Bands and Steps) alongside our assessment criteria, which are a little confusing and at present unclear and time consuming to use. Jason’s sheets, with each child’s next steps highlighted, have been shared with the children and their parents at parent’s evening. Four or five targets areas have been selected. These can then be practised in our weekly 30 minute Target Time slot starting after half term. This idea is in its infancy but I will judge the quality of this strategy as we progress. My initial thoughts are that regularly practising in class with some support from the staff and maybe their parents will help develop their writing rather than just assessing it and giving it a ‘level’ or Band/Stage/Step (levels in disguise).

Final thoughts

A change or shift in what and how we assess (writing) is challenging and possibly quite daunting; however, it is a problem that can be solved by collaborating, focussing on how we can improve the children’s writing and not on ‘levelling’. Whatever system is used, the focus should be on assessing and NOT tracking. Many stakeholders want to track how the children are doing or progressing, which is fine, but this should not be at the expense of a detailed working knowledge of assessment and how this can be used to help develop the children’s writing. Know what they can do, know what they can’t do, know what they can do about it, and know how we (teaching staff) can best facilitate this process.

# Operation Parents’ Evening

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I started at a new school this academic year and this has meant embracing ‘newness’. At the same time, my younger sister has started her NQT year in a primary classroom. Being able to help my sister, when she has needed it, has been a satisfying process. Thinking about her questions has made me reflect on elements of the job which I have being doing for nearly a decade. Last week she came up with an absolute ripper (Australian accent optional)!

What makes a successful parents’ evening?

Love or loathe it, parents’ evenings have been a major event on our school calendar. Personally, I find them valuable (if carried out well) but that doesn’t stop the anticipation or apprehension. The worrying about them is worse than the actually event itself. In my experience, some parents worry just as much if not more than teachers do. Potentially, school for them was not a hugely positive experience and coming back in and sitting on the tiny chairs again is tricky. Nervously, they sit waiting for the teacher to tell them that their child is a behavioural nightmare, struggles socially and can’t learn a jot. This has never been the case!

Here are my thoughts on how to make parents evening more successful. This is NOT a one size fits all approach and it is my opinion on how to get the best out of the meetings. Also, no matter how much effort you put in, parents’ evening will always be something some parents dread and therefore may not act as you would hope. Saying this the number of confrontational or negative parents I have had to deal with in the last nine years of teaching can be counted on one hand.

Before

Even before parents’ evening appears on the horizon, getting out of the classroom and talking to parents is massively important. Be friendly, be sincere and approachable. Ensure that issues, problems and concerns are dealt with promptly and not left. If parents don’t come to school on a regular basis, use the phone. I believe that if parents’ evening is the first time I’ve spoken to a parent, then the impact my feedback (at parents’ evening) has is limited and the potential for issues to have festered into bigger problems is exaggerated. If possible, parents’ evening should be about celebrating the successes and not dealing with problems. Not always possible, but if problems are dealt with as they occur, then parents’ evenings can be much more positive.

At my current school, prior to the parents’ evening, we have individual mentoring meetings with each child to discuss how the school year has gone so far, discuss areas which need working on and removing barriers (excuses). Prior to this meeting, I get my class to fill out a quick attitude self-assessment (see picture below). This information is invaluable. Their attitude towards school underpins everything. Often, the children will either over or under assess and discussing this is a good starting point.

Spending a little time organising my appointment timetable helps. My time management has historically not been the best at parents’ evening (I’m probably not alone here). I find it hard to cut parents’ off when they are discussing something they are struggling with. Leaving regular gaps or empty time slots helps me keep to time.

During

Having the children at parents’ evening makes sense to me. If I have anything to say, I should have already spoken to the children about it. If not the children need to hear it. I avoid sitting behind a desk and instead organise the chairs so we sit facing each other with a table next to me for any paperwork. I like this as it feels a little bit more open. I always greet parents with a smile (not easy after two hours of meetings), a firm handshake and thank them for attending. I being each meeting by asking the parents if they have anything they want to ask or start with. Most parents, in my experience, just want to know how everything is going, where to go next and how they can help. Simples!

On the inside of my file, I have two little sayings. Firstly, meetings with parents should be a time to ‘explain NOT complain’. Secondly, any problems areas or issues should be based on ‘facts not opinions’. For me, having the children complete a behaviour self-assessment and carry out our mentor meeting, means I am armed with exactly what needs to be discussed. More often than not, the children have told me exactly where the problems are and come up with ideas on how to solve them. This is because I ask them exactly this. So sneaky!

Make sure you explain what:

• Has gone well so far
• Needs fixing focussing on what will make the biggest difference and not every small problem
• Support and intervention has been set up already
• The data shows
• Parents can do to help and support their child

Discussing their ATTITUDE (behaviour), ACHIEVEMENTS (successes) and ASSESSEMENTS (targets) is a helpful framework for the meeting. Anything that is discussed, I write down in a notebook so that I don’t forget it. This year’s notebook made a few parents laugh. I’m not sure why!

I always finish off the meeting by thanking the parents and asking them to fill out a questionnaire to gather their opinions on the school and my teaching. It may not necessarily be what I want to hear but it is better to know that parents aren’t happy and do something about it, than let it fester.

After

Put simply, I must make sure I do what I said I would do. Whatever I discussed with parents, I follow it up. Promising something and then not following it up doesn’t look good at all. For example:

• Copy any resources you said could useful
• Find out/research ideas
• Set up an intervention
• Send home targets
• Copy examples of work