“Strange Relationship”

Oh, what the hell, U always surrender
What’s this strange relationship that we hold on 2?

Prince – Strange Relationship – Sign of the Times

Every teacher understands the importance of support from home. To have parents or carers not only support a teacher/school, but I am sure we’d all agree, for those at home to take an active interest in their child’s education makes a huge difference to a student’s attitude to learning. We need to avoid them becoming a strange relationship.

Primary schools are much better at this than secondary (or that’s been my experience as a parent). Teachers pop out, speak to a parent or guardian and often issues are addressed much quicker.  So why does it change at secondary?  On training days, or meetings suggestions are regularly made from SLT to select 3-5 parents every week with positive news, ring the parent of a student that isn’t behaving, or a student you have noticed has changed recently; promote the department and good work being made. And if I didn’t have meetings, sometimes up to three a week, interventions or duties I would. You see a quick phone call to a parent can actually take 20 mins or more, multiply that by several and you can be tied up for quite a while, oh and that’s if you manage to speak to them! There are some parents I call multiple times and can never get hold of them – they have their own commitments. All of that coupled with pressures of marking, planning etc and your own family, ensures what appears as a simple task, can actually become quite onerous.

This year I wanted to be more pro-active with regards home/school contact, so I came up with a few ideas to trial and hopefully build good parent/teacher/student relationships.  Out of all the different routes I tried (phone calls and emails – which were both successful) the one that involved the least amount of work from myself, proved the most successful. It was also an idea which originated from my very good friend Emily Greenacre (@e_greenacre).

One autumn day after marking a set of books I sat back once again both proud of the work in some books and in an equal measure disappointed from the lack of effort in others. I wondered what would their parents think if they could see the work produced; would they be pleased with the quality and quantity learning? In some cases probably not.

I knocked up a slip for parents to comment on (template homework-task1). I tried to make them as simple as possible, after all I didn’t want them used as a platform to moan about other aspects of school. So I covered three areas as a classroom teacher I was interested in; presentation, effort and attitude to learning. But how could I ensure I received all back? So, I set as a homework task. My instructions to students were clear get a responsible adult at home to look through your book, ask them to comment on the three areas. I made it clear to students that parents could say as little or as much as they wanted. We also have an above average EAL intake, so my suggestion to students whose parents have limited English was to read and translate for them.

Then I sat back and nibbled my nails anxiously waiting for my little experiment to work!

Not only were all returned, the trial run was successful! Parents completed the slips with brutal honesty, some commenting on how proud they were of their child, others saying their child wasn’t working hard enough in lessons. Many suggested to their children to use time wisely and check work back. Many parents were grateful for the opportunity to go through the books with their child.

I took my little idea to twitter and several other teachers have run a trial, all with similar success. The thing with this. as a teacher, you don’t really have to do anything. The student/parent does most of the work! I have pretty much all slips returned, and before you ask yes that includes all my EAL, PP and SEND students. Some parents have raised some issues – those are followed up individually, however I read all and comment and respond appropriately on the slip.

I decided to send home October, February and June half term. I don’t want to annoy anyone; I feel three a year is sufficient.

So if you’re looking for a way to build home/school relationships with a system that doesn’t take up too much of your time then don’t take my word for it, try it! Download the template, if you’re not keen on my choice of words – simple, change them!

All I can say is these were extremely effective, but don’t take my words for it, here are some examples:

You can download the template here:

homework task

and the matching student End of Unit:

Self assessment slips

Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment – I’m always learning!

7 thoughts on ““Strange Relationship”

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  4. Carol it’s also an idea to get parents into your school. Timetable post school workshops. Show them the standard you you expect in books. I found the majority are delighted to step into a parent/teacher mode at home. Also a unit overview let’s them see the childs learning journey. Very popular!


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  6. Nice idea. Glad you’ve had some success with it. I think things change from primary to secondary for obvious reasons. Primary children get walked to school and collected again by a carer/responsible adult. The school staff have a captive audience. By the time secondary starts, most children catch a bus or are encouraged to make their own way there by walking. There’s more expectation on parents becoming more distant. It’s probably too young now for that to happen – is 11 the new 7? 🙂


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