Parents' evenings 'to stay on Zoom after pandemic'

By Cristina Criddle
Technology reporter

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Image source, Getty Images

Parents' evenings are likely to remain virtual beyond the pandemic, the government's education catch-up tsar has said.

Sir Kevan Collins told the Lord’s Youth Unemployment Committee video calls were a “better way” to conduct the evenings.

"The way that schools do parents’ evenings I don’t think will ever be the same again,” he said.

The National Association of Head Teachers said it hoped to see a hybrid model for such events in the future.

Car-parking space

“We know [virtual meetings] have often made it easier for parents to attend appointments and have also made it easier for schools to manage the logistics,” general secretary Paul Whiteman said.

But some conversations were better face to face and “may be the only time in the year that parents and carers actually step inside their child’s school or classroom and see their work”.

“We must remember that for some families, online meetings might not be accessible or desirable,” Mr Whiteman added.

Sir Kevan told the committee: “Zoom for parents’ evenings is much better than trying to find a car-parking space on a wet Tuesday and waiting your turn.”

But senior deputy head Susan Wessels while virtual meetings provided flexibility and convenience at busy times, Framlingham College would always offer face-to-face meetings.

“We are discussing the welfare and progress of their children, after all,” she said.

“Some parents will always want to do that in person and are perfectly prepared to find a car-parking space".

Media caption,
Four-year-old Bobby and his mother were happy to return to school

But on the Mumsnet parenting platform, one user posted: “Whilst it is nice to see the teachers in person, the online parents evening was much better - no waiting around for parents who want to talk all night about their child, no racing between classrooms and trying not to unintentionally jump in front of anyone else.”

Mother-of-three Anna Cargan told BBC News: “They’re a lot more convenient for us.

“When you’ve got other children to collect and after-school activities to get to, it’s just one more thing on the long list of busy parents' tasks that they need to find time for.

“It is much easier to have a phone call while at home cooking dinner or out waiting for your child at football practice.”

'Every teacher'

And another Mumsnet user wrote: “It worked brilliantly.

“We spoke to every teacher in under an hour.

"Normally, it would take the whole evening.

“We live over 20 miles from school so [it is] 30 minutes in the car each way.

"And even though there is an appointment system, things rarely run to time.”

Online lessons

Sir Kevan also pushed for schools to move towards online exams and lessons.

"We need to move more quickly to assess online because I think that is the future,” he said.

“So a good example would be many schools now create online lessons that you can just flip between school and home - and you actually extend the experience.”

Children in England had missed about 115 days of face-to-face schooling during the pandemic, the committee heard.

And technology had become “woven into the fabric” of education.

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