School problems are common. They can come up at any stage throughout a child’s schooling. When you show you’re interested and you’re involved in your child’s learning, you’re in a good position to address any school problems as soon as they arise.
Keeping an eye on your child’s progress at school
When you’re know how your child is going at school, it can alert you to early signs that your child is beginning to struggle. It can also help you work out whether any existing school problems are improving or getting worse.
You can get a sense of how your child is going by:
- talking to your child regularly about school
- noticing how your child talks about school – for example, if your child is complaining, reluctant to talk, or sounds bored or unmotivated about school, there might be a problem
- checking whether your child is doing homework regularly
- reading your child’s school reports carefully
- attending parent-teacher interviews and other opportunities to meet school staff
- watching out for any behaviour changes or problems.
Talking with your child about school and school problems
If you’re worried that your child might be having school problems, talking with your child about school gives you the chance to find out information.
You can ask your child how he’s going at school. If you have trouble getting your child to talk, some specific questions might help:
- What’s school like this year compared with last year?
- What did you do at lunchtime today?
- What are you learning about in science this term?
Engaging with your child’s school
Building a good relationship with your child’s school is crucial – even if your child doesn’t seem to be struggling. You can establish this relationship by getting to know key staff at the school, like your child’s teacher, the year level coordinator, the wellbeing or welfare coordinator, or the additional needs coordinator. This way you’ll know where to go for help.
It’s never too late to get involved with your child’s school.
When school problems do come up
Getting on top of school problems quickly can stop them from getting worse and having negative consequences for your child’s progress and self-esteem. A quick response also sends your child a clear message that you have her best interests at heart.
Talk with your child’s school
A good place to start is a teacher who knows your child. At primary school this is your child’s classroom teacher. At secondary school you might also need to speak with the year level coordinator or welfare coordinator.
You can talk with teachers at any time – you don’t need to wait until a scheduled parent-teacher interview.
Taking action together as a family will be more effective than taking action without your child. So let your child know who you’re talking to and what actions you’re taking.
Advocate for your child
Your child’s school has a responsibility to do all it can to meet your child’s educational needs. Your child is entitled to a range of services, through his school, that can help to address his academic or school-based problems.
Sometimes, these services include assessments by professionals like educational psychologists or speech pathologists. Sometimes it’s hard to know what services might be useful and are available, so ask your child’s school for more information.
If the school can’t provide what your child needs, it should be able to refer you to a service outside the school.
Children with additional needs
If your child has additional needs, establishing an early and strong relationship with your child’s school, and regularly monitoring your child’s progress throughout her schooling, can help you tune in to subtle signs of any problems.
Whether your child attends a mainstream or special school, he has rights to educational opportunities, just like all other children.
Your involvement in your child’s schooling is crucial. Children do better at school when their parents read the information coming home from school, go to parent-teacher meetings, get involved with homework, and watch them participating in school-related activities like sports.
Things to try at home when your child is having school problems
You can try these things at home to support your child:
Provide a supportive home environment. Use as many opportunities as possible to let your child know that your family values education. You can do this by reading the school newsletter and by taking an interest in and helping your child with homework.
Minimise the impact of school absences. If your child needs to be absent more than just occasionally, ask the teacher what can be done to help your child catch up, and how you can help. Or ask the teacher to give you the work your child missed, so your child can do it at home.
Praise your child for all attempts and efforts, not just for success. Let your child know that you’re proud of her for trying hard at school, whatever her grades. This will teach her to try new things and to keep going if something is hard.
Celebrate your child’s achievements on their own merits, not in comparison with peers or siblings. For example, celebrate when your child does better on a maths test compared with the last one, even if the mark isn’t very high.
Consider a home tutor or a study group. Many organisations run free homework programs or homework clubs. You could ask your child’s teacher or your local council or neighbourhood centre for more information.
Look for interests outside school. Work-related skills, technical skills, and visual arts, music and drama are all valuable fields of learning. Taking part in these activities can keep your child motivated and help him succeed.