Communication between home and school is important not just for teachers and parents but also for the student. Both parents and teachers can work together to provide a support system that helps children thrive and succeed in school.
“[…] schools should enable parents to share their knowledge about their child and give them confidence that their views and contributions are valued and will be acted upon. At times, parents, teachers and others may have differing expectations of how a child’s needs are best met. Sometimes these discussions can be challenging but it is in the child’s best interests for a positive dialogue between parents, teachers and others to be maintained, to work through points of difference and establish what action is to be taken.”
(Paragraph 1.7) SEND Code of Practice 2015
What is the benefit?
When parents and teachers regularly share information about a child and what’s happening in the classroom, it supports the learning process from all sides, setting up students for success.
For teachers, being able to communicate with parents helps them better understand a child’s strengths and their own individual personality and learning style. The more information they have about a student, the more teachers can focus on teaching and being able to address and overcome challenges along the way that may be unique to each child.
It’s the student who benefits the most from communication between home and school, resulting in numerous positive advantages:
- Improved academic achievement.
- A more positive attitude toward learning.
- A feeling of empowerment and confidence.
- Enhanced relationships with parents, peers, and teachers.
- Regular class attendance.
What are the expectations?
The SEND Code of Practice 2015 addresses the need to listen to, communicate with, and involve parents, children and young people in decision making regarding the support they receive. Here are some examples of such provisions summarised.
For direct quotes please see paragraphs 6.20-6.71.
What if I am struggling to communicate with my child's school?
If you are experiencing communication difficulties with the school, there are many methods of contact and tips on how to keep this communication effective. Here are some tips:
- What is your preferred method of communication, do you prefer in writing, face to face, online meetings?
- Contact the class teacher directly. Gain their email address and express your concerns in writing.
- Ensure you have formal arranged meetings at a mutually convenient time and not a quick chat in the playground
- Are there any communication barriers, if so, what can be changed to overcome the barriers?
- Do the school have an app that you can both use to pass over quick queries?
- Set up an agreement between yourself and the teacher. How often will the school update you? What method of communication will suit you both, email? Communication book? Face to face.
- Keep communication consistent and clear. Consistency is key.
- Is there a particular member of staff who you/your child are more involved with and can they be your main point of call.
- Do the school have a social media account and/or website where you can find useful information?
- Ask for and send confirmations via email/in writing and keep written, dated records
- Always think about this; what are you asking for?
- When discussing provision, think what does your child need? Be imaginative with ideas, think about what will work for them
- You can rely on the provisions from the SEND Code of Practice mentioned above as this is statutory guidance for schools. Ask them to explain how they are meeting these requirements.
What questions should I ask?
You may find it helpful to structure your discussion by creating a list of clear questions to ask the school and take this with you to your meeting. It is always worth remembering what outcomes you want to achieve when considering how to phrase these. We have listed some example questions below which you may wish to use and adapt for your individual situation. You can find more advice for meetings in our resources mentioned above.
- What is going well? What is my child good at?
- Is my child on the SEN register? If not why and if yes, what do school feel are their areas of special educational needs?
- What provisions are currently in place for my child and how often are they implemented?
- What needs are school addressing?
- What are my child’s current targets?
- Can I have copies of the written records/evidence of the support in place?
- Is there a SEN Support plan?
- Can we book a meeting date to review progress for what has been agreed?
- How can we improve home/school communication to be clearer and more transparent moving forward?
- How are you measuring my child’s progress against Age Related Expectations?
- You’ve told me that my child is not yet working at Age Related Expectations, what additional support is available to help him/her?
- Have you asked for outside or specialist advice in order to know how best to support them?
- Where have you assessed my child as being at the moment?
- In which areas or skills has my child made progress this year?
- Can I see examples of work that shows progress?
- What are my child’s next steps in learning?
- How are you supporting my child to make progress in…?
- What can I do to help my child’s learning at home?
If you have already consulted with school and are not happy about the support that your child receives
You can arrange a meeting with the SENCO or Head Teacher. The Code says that schools should meet parents at least three times per year. These meetings should allow sufficient time for you to express your views, and to discuss and plan effectively, meaning they would be longer than most parent-teacher meetings. We have an Advice Sheet called “Top Tips for Meetings” which provides advice around preparation and asking non-confrontational questions. If you feel that you may need further help, advice or support for communication with school, please feel free to get in touch with us.
If you disagree with the school on what progress has been made, you could ask the class teacher or SENCO to go through the SEN Support guidance with you and discuss any points where there is disagreement about what your child is finding difficult. If other professionals have not already been involved, you might suggest that it might be helpful to approach them to help get a clearer picture of your child’s difficulties or to plan the next steps. Sometimes the next step may be to ask the LA for an Education Health Care needs assessment. If the school decides to do this, they must tell you. If you think it is needed, you can ask for it yourself.