Getting the most from meetings
Meetings with your child’s school or nursery are a good opportunity to hear about how your child is doing at school. Attending meetings can be a positive experience, but it can sometimes also be nerve wracking or frustrating.
It’s important to remember that you have the right to be involved in decisions about your child’s learning and support and to share your views.
What type of meetings might I have to attend?
Local authorities have different ways of describing meetings about pupil support. Your local authority website should have information about how they plan additional support in their schools. Most planning meetings will take place at your child’s school.
For example, you may be asked to attend a:
- pupil planning meeting
- Team Around the Child (TAC) meeting
- Child’s Plan meeting
- Multidisciplinary Team meeting
- or something similar.
If you don’t know what a meeting is about, you can ask your child’s school. You can also ask who is likely to be at the meeting. Often a meeting might just be between you and school staff. Depending on your child’s needs, the meeting could also include other professionals like educational psychologists, social workers, or health professionals.
How can I prepare for meetings?
There are lots of things you can do before a meeting to help you feel prepared and confident:
Ask for the meeting agenda
Finding out what will be discussed can help you think about what you want to say. If you have something that you would like to discuss, you could ask that it is added to the agenda.
Ask for a copy of your child’s most recent learning plan if they have one
This can help to focus the discussion on what support is already in place, how this is working, and what changes might need to be made.
Make a list of the main things you want to talk about
Are there particular issues you are concerned about, or a particular incident you want to discuss? It can be helpful to write these down so that you can take your notes into the meeting with you. It may also help to contact the school before the meeting to let them know if there is something specific you would like to discuss.
Think about what you would like the school to know
What is important for your child’s school to understand? Has anything changed recently at home or at school that they should be aware of? Remember, these can be positive things as well as concerns.
Ask your child what they would like to be shared at the meeting
Your child should have their views taken into account. Your child may wish to attend the meeting with you, but they may want help in sharing what they want to say. Your child could even write or record a message for you to share.
Write down some specific examples to share
If you have particular concerns about your child’s support, it can be helpful to come prepared with specific examples that highlight your point. For example, if you are concerned about bullying, you could share a recent example of an incident that your child has told you about.
Think about whether you’d like to bring someone for support
You have the right to have a supporter or advocate with you for any meetings about your child’s support. This can be anyone you’d find helpful to have with you, such as a friend, family member or colleague, or someone from a support or advocacy organisation. If you’d like to bring someone with you, let the school know in advance so they can make sure the meeting room is suitable.
What should I do at the meeting?
Meetings should be an opportunity to share your views, and to discuss your child’s support with their school and/or other professionals supporting their education.
You are an expert on your child, and your views should be heard. It is also important to remember that teachers and other professionals also bring expertise about how children learn or behave. Be open to trying new strategies to see if they work for your child.
You could bring to the meeting:
- A copy of your child’s learning plan and any other relevant documents
- Notes you have prepared with the things you would like to discuss
- A friend, family member, or advocate to support you
- A picture of your child, to help everyone remember why they are there
At the meeting, remember you can:
- Ask the professionals to introduce themselves and explain their roles
- Ask them to explain anything that you don’t understand
- Share positive stories about your child’s achievements and strengths, inside and outside of school
- If an important member of staff is not there, ask if they can attend future meetings and/or share their input in writing after the meeting
Possible conversation starters:
- How can we work together to make this happen?
- What alternatives would you suggest?
- Is there anything we can learn from this?
- Can I check I have understood what has been agreed?
Will I receive minutes of meetings or should I take notes?
You may be given a copy of the meeting’s minutes or notes. In some cases, your child’s learning plan may be updated and this will be considered a record of the agreed actions instead.
At the start of the meeting, you can ask if notes will be taken. If not, you can ask that they are taken. You could also take your own notes and ask that the chair of the meeting confirm that they agree with them at the end of the meeting. You can also bring someone into the meeting with you (a friend, family member or advocate) who could take notes.
Sometimes, especially if no formal note of the meeting was taken, it can be helpful to email the school after the meeting to share your understanding of what was agreed. This creates a written record of what was agreed.
If a meeting has taken place that you did not attend, you can ask for a copy of the notes of the meeting that relate to your child.
At any time, you can ask your local authority for a copy of your child’s educational records. You can do this by putting a request in writing (e.g. an email) to your local authority.
How often should I be expecting to meet with my child’s school?
How often meetings will happen will depend on things like the nature of your child’s support needs and what is going on for them at the time. For example, you might meet with school staff more regularly through a period of change to help everyone monitor their progress and how they are adapting.
It can be helpful to agree in advance how often you’re going to meet. Some families will meet about once a term with school, sometimes more often, and sometimes less than this will be enough. It might be that you set up another way of communicating, such as by email or with regular phone calls.
The important thing is that you feel you’re getting opportunities to hear how your child is getting on, and to be involved in decisions about their support. It’s also good to remember that if new issues arise or there are things you are worried about, you can always ask to speak to school staff between meetings.
Can I ask for a meeting?
Yes, you can ask for a meeting at any time. You could email your child’s school or nursery to ask for a meeting and explain what you would like to discuss. For example, you might like to meet with the school to discuss their support, or to talk about a particular incident.
Working together with your child’s school
This factsheet explains how you can have positive conversations with your child’s school or nursery, including advice for attending meetings about your child’s support.
My child’s school will not arrange to meet with me. What can I do?
You have the right to be involved in decisions about your child’s learning and support. If you would like a meeting with your child’s school but this is not happening, there are steps you can take.
First, you could put your concerns in writing. You could write to the person responsible for additional support for learning at the school, which is often a deputy head teacher, or a principal teacher. In an email or letter, you could share your concerns or questions, and ask for a written response.
Second, you could escalate your concerns. For example, if the person responsible for additional support for learning is not able to meet with you, you could ask to meet with the headteacher. Beyond this, you also have the right to raise your concerns with your local authority directly.
Another option to consider is mediation. This is where a third, neutral party works with you and your child’s school to help reach an agreement together. Mediation can be helpful if you feel like your relationship with the school has broken down.
Avoiding and solving problems
This factsheet explains the steps you can take if you are worried or unhappy about your child’s support, and some of the further steps you can take if you are in a disagreement with a local authority.
This factsheet explains how and when you can use independent mediation to resolve a disagreement about your child’s support.
Email ahead of time to let the school know if there is something specific you want to discuss – this gives them a chance to prepare, and you can be confident that they know what you want to cover.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a meeting if you have concerns or questions about your child’s support.
If you’re bringing someone along to a meeting with you for support, have a chat to them first about what role you’d like them to have. Do you want them to join in the conversation and help you ask questions and make the points you want to? Or would you prefer if they were quiet and focussed on ta