Parent-teacher interviews at secondary school: what to expect

Throughout your child’s time in secondary school, you might be invited to attend parent-teacher interviews, usually once or twice a year.

Being asked to attend an interview doesn’t mean there’s a problem with your child’s progress.

These interviews are usually just short meetings – about 10-15 minutes – between you and your child’s subject teachers.

Some secondary schools will ask you to meet with all teachers, and others will allow you to choose which teachers you meet. In some schools, teachers specifically request interviews with particular parents. If teachers ask to meet with you, it’s important to make time for those teachers.

Interviews might be held during school hours, before or after school, or in the evening. Your child will usually bring a note home that outlines the available times. Some schools use an online booking system. It’s good to make a time when both parents can go along, if you can. If you can’t manage any of the available times, you could call the school to arrange another time.

Why it’s worth going to parent-teacher interviews

Parent-teacher interviews give you a great opportunity to:

  • learn more about your child’s academic, emotional and social development
  • meet and get to know your child’s teachers
  • help your child’s teachers understand more about your child
  • make plans with teachers about how you can all support your child
  • build a relationship with your child’s school.

If you don’t have any particular concerns, you might wonder whether it’s worth going to parent-teacher interviews. But going along is one way to show your child that you’re interested in his learning needs and what’s happening for him at school.

Also, parent-teacher interviews are a good chance to hear about how your child is going, from someone other than your child. Older children and teenagers don’t always talk openly about what’s happening for them at school. Teachers and support staff like counsellors are in an excellent position to watch how your child is developing and learning.

Of course, if you do have concerns, parent-teacher interviews are a chance for you to raise them with your child’s teachers if you haven’t done that already.

You might feel a bit nervous about going to parent-teacher interviews. That’s normal. It might help to know that teachers can feel the same way, especially if there are difficult or sensitive issues to discuss, or if they’re not used to giving parent-teacher interviews.

Who you’ll meet at secondary school parent-teacher interviews

At your child’s parent-teacher interviews you might meet with individual subject teachers. In the junior secondary years, this might mean that there up to 10 teachers for you to meet.

It’s not always practical to have an appointment with every teacher, especially if you have more than one child at secondary school. Your child’s school report is a good guide to which teachers you should talk to. For example, it might show areas where your child is having trouble. You can also ask your child about which teachers she thinks you should meet.

Generally, it’s a good idea to meet with teachers of the compulsory subjects, as well as the year coordinator or home-room teacher. The year coordinator or home-room teacher will have a good idea of your child’s social and emotional development. If you’ve got enough time, you could also talk with teachers in a couple of the electives where your child has the greatest interest or difficulties.

With fewer subjects and teachers in the senior secondary years, it’s easier to make times with every teacher. In fact, this is particularly important during Years 10, 11 and 12 when your child is deciding on subjects and thinking about opportunities after school.

What to talk about at parent-teacher interviews

Secondary school parent-teacher interviews generally focus on your child’s academic progress, outcomes and career goals.

To get the most out of parent-teacher interviews, it helps to be well prepared. One of the first things you can do is read your child’s school report carefully and note down anything you want to ask about. It can help to take your list of questions with you so you remember what you want to talk about.

You might have a few other questions in mind too. For example:

  • What are my child’s strengths?
  • What does my child struggle with?
  • How much homework should my child be doing every night?
  • What can I do at home to help my child with schoolwork?
  • What can you tell me about my child’s behaviour in class?
  • How is my child getting along with other students?
  • What support services are available for my child at this school?

If you don’t get through everything you want to discuss, you might need to arrange another meeting with the teacher or teachers.

Should your child go to the interview?

At secondary school your child will sometimes be expected to come to parent-teacher interviews. Teachers will often direct much of the discussion to your child, reflecting his growing maturity and independence.

It’s normal for your child to feel nervous about these interviews. If she’s nervous, you can remind her that the interviews are about how she’s going at school and how you and the teachers can support her.

After the parent-teacher interview

You and the teachers need to follow up on any decisions or solutions that you agree on at the interview. For example, you could arrange a second meeting or a follow-up phone call in a month’s time.

If you agree to try some new strategies, a follow-up discussion gives you both the chance to check how well they’re working. If you need to, you can adjust them.

Arranging parent-teacher meetings at other times

If you have any concerns about your child’s social or academic development, you don’t have to wait for a formal parent-teacher interview to talk about them.

Your child’s teacher will be happy to arrange a meeting with you to discuss any issues. You just need to contact the school to make an appointment. If you’re not sure which teacher you need to speak to, try starting with your child’s home-room teacher or year coordinator.

Parent-teacher interviews are often held in open or public areas. If you know that you want to raise a sensitive or confidential topic with a teacher, it might be a good idea to arrange a separate meeting.

You can also arrange a separate meeting if you want to discuss something that might take longer than your allocated interview time. For example, you might want to tell your child’s teacher about something going on at home that could be affecting your child’s behaviour or academic performance, like the death of a grandparent or a parental separation.

Informal contact with your child’s teacher

Sometimes it’s harder to get to know your child’s teachers in secondary school, and your child might not want you to be around the school a lot. Information nights and other school events are a good opportunity to meet staff and build relationships. This can help when you meet for formal parent-teacher interviews.