Working well with parents and carers

Dad playing with his two boysWe recently wrote a blog post for parents providing tips for successful communication with a child’s school and have received good feedback on how useful these are.

In this post we focus on what school staff can do to contribute to positive relationships with parents. Using information from the Supporting Children’s Learning Code of Practice and National Parent Forum of Scotland’s Plea from Parents we’ve pulled together tips for staff to help parents feel listened to, valued and able to take part in meetings.

Needs of families

  • Provide details of the named person parents and carers can talk to, and the best way to get in touch with them, if they want to share information that might help the child in school or raise a concern.
  • Consider the issues that a family might be dealing with. Issues such as transport, poverty, housing, family illness, respite care may all have an impact on a child’s learning. If you are aware of services that may be help them (such as Enquire, Carers Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland) pass on this information.


  • Speak to parents and carers about the dates and times that work for them to attend meetings. Families may have to organise childcare or work commitments to attend school meetings.
  • Provide information about what will be discussed at meetings in advance. This will help parents feel prepared. Avoid last minute additions.
  • Tell parents which professionals will be at the meetings and explain their role if they don’t know.
  • Think about the language you use when talking to parents. Avoid jargon.
  • Remind parents they can bring along a supporter or advocate to meetings.
  • Share information and plans about a child with parents. Give families plenty of time to read it. Check before discussing a child or proposed support that they have understood the information. Think about whether they may need help to understand or read what has been shared.
  • Try to arrange meeting rooms so that they are as informal and welcoming as possible. A row of professionals can be really scary.
  • Show compassion. Parents may get emotional when talking about their child. (A box of hankies is useful. )
  • Try to understand the family’s situation. Parents and carers may still be coming to terms with their child’s support needs or be struggling at home.
  • Be flexible. Children and families needs may change and plans and support may need to adapt to meet their needs.
  • Listen and take account of parents views. They may be able to offer solutions based on how a child behaves or responds at home.
  • If families are not involved in the whole of a meeting, take the time to explain why and give them time to ask questions about what was discussed.
  • Give parents time to ask questions at the end of a meeting and to make sure they have understood what has been discussed.

Going forward

  • At the end of the meeting outline what has been agreed and what they can expect to happen next. Give timescales, if appropriate, for when things will be put in place.
  • If an action depends on other individuals or agencies not attending the meeting explain who will be responsible for taking forward this work.
  • Remind parents of what they can do and appeal procedures if you are sharing decisions they may be unhappy with.
  • If  unplanned or unexpected changes to a child’s support need to be made (e.g. because a staff member is off or leaves) speak to the family and explain what has happened. Parents will cope better if they understand the reasons changes have been made.
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