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.
These interviews are usually short meetings – about 10-15 minutes – between you and your child’s subject teachers.
You’ll be invited to attend at least one interview per subject each year. 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.
Your child’s school will probably use its parent portal or newsletter to tell parents that interviews are coming up. You’ll probably need to make interview times with teachers using an online booking system.
Interviews might be held during school hours, before or after school, or in the evening. 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 can usually call the school to arrange other times.
It’s important to be on time for parent-teacher interviews. But be aware that teachers might be running late because previous interviews have run over time.
Why it’s important to go 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 their learning needs and what’s happening for them 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 they think you should meet.
Generally, it’s a good idea to meet with teachers of compulsory subjects, as well as your child’s 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 interests and 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?
- Would you recommend my child continue with this subject (in the senior years or post-school education)?
If you don’t get through everything you want to discuss, you might need to arrange another meeting with the teacher or teachers.
Should children go to parent-teacher interviews?
At secondary school your child might be expected to go to parent-teacher interviews. If this is what happens at your child’s school, teachers will probably talk mostly to your child. This reflects your child’s growing maturity and independence.
It’s common for children to feel nervous about these interviews. If your child is nervous, you can remind them that the interviews are about how they’re going at school and how you and the teachers can support them.
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 teachers
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.