An HR perspective of Parents Evening

My 5yo started “big” school in September and one of the fringe benefits is that she made friends with a lovely girl whose Dad (James) also works in HR.  More specifically, he’s a Learning & Development Specialist who works in the City.

James brings a new paradigm to my school run: instead of indulging in the usual school gate topics of “What time did your little one get up this morning?” and “Who’s falling out with who today?” we usually end up talking about some HR related event of the moment.

A few weeks ago it was parents evening: an important event for any parent, particularly as it was our first one.  Naturally, after the event, James & I shared our thoughts.  We had both felt dissastisfied, almost empty, by parents evening.

What it came down to is that we both view our daughters’ education as a learning & development intervention.  It wasn’t good enough for us to know what the key objectives were and the method of learning;  we wanted full and meaningful feedback.  We wanted answers to questions such as:

  • What does my daughter excel in?
  • What areas of development does my daughter need to concentrate on?
  • What should we be doing as parents, at home, to consolidate our daughters’ learning?

We were dissapointed, as the answers we got were bland.  I did not feel that my daughter was being considered as an individual in her learning, but that she was a number within a collective.  In the corporate environment, this poor quality feedback would not be allowed.

My initial reaction was that although teachers may be skilled in developing children, and do so by using appropriate language, including feedback skills,  are (primary school) teachers skilled in giving feedback to parents?   

I then came across Ken Robinson:  he states that the education system that we see today has not changed since it was set up in the Industrial Revolution.  It has a formal structure, defined by a strict timetable.  The learning is automated similar to the process that are seen in factories.  As adults are considered to be “worker ants” in a factor, the children as seen as just collective within each year group.  Ken Robinson goes onto state that this system actually limits a child’s ability to grow intellectually and creatively. 

Does this approach to education therefore influence teachers?  And more specifically, is this the reason why the feedback we recieved at parents evening was limited, and not specific to my “academically competent” child?

Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going to turn into an HR-centric rant about the state of our education. 

As an HR professional with a passionate interest in learning & development, I am going to put on my “L&D Hat” for parents evening.  I know I’m not the only parent who’ll do this. 

Schools need to be better prepared: invest in some training & development for their teachers so that are able to not only work with the parents of challenging children, but also those who want to take their children onto the next level of their education journey.  Treat children as individuals, and tailor the feedback so that parents can feel that their child is valued within the school environment.  As employees we would expect this as a minimum.

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One comment on “An HR perspective of Parents Evening

  1. Kevin Ball says:

    This is a good post, Karen. I’m still finding my way here but I’m not convinced that the workplace L&D approach that you describe has a proper place in educational establishments.

    I’ve expressed similar dissatisfaction with teaching methods and the general management of learning for my daughters but on each occasion, reflection has made me think differently. Coaching my kids learning is at least partly my job and I can do it better than most teachers. As they grow older, they are taking more responsibility for managing their own learning in what I believe to be a healthy and progressive way. Teachers and lecturers have plenty of things to do, not least crowd control, and while the subject learning of any one child could always be improved, there are social learnings that accrue from the collectivism that you describe which are an important part of growing up for children and their parents.

    The system is undoubtedly flawed but I’m fumbling my way towards something which says that schools and workplaces need different answers.

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