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How Parent-Teacher Relationships Change

by Terry Freedman on May 9, 2017

The relationship between parents and teachers is very important, and involves much more than turning up to a parents' evening once or twice a year. Sandy Christenson, of the University of Minnesota, reported studies which found that children from birth to age 18 spend 90% of their time outside of school and that once children start kindergarten they spend 70% of waking hours outside of school time. She concludes that how students use their time and what learning opportunities and supports they receive outside of school highly influence their reading progress and performance in school.

In other words, the parent-school, or parent-teacher, relationship has to be one of partnership. The form this partnership takes varies according to the age of the child, as one might expect. A study of successful home-school partnerships in New Zealand in 2008 found that parents tended to get involved in their children's school, but how they did so depended on whether the school was primary or secondary.

In primary schools, parents were much more willing to volunteer to help with activities, the school sent home more newsletters, and there was greater use of learning activities to encourage student–parent conversations.

Secondary schools, on the other hand, tended to have more school–community partnerships. Also, more parents became involved in school decision-making.

One very significant difference between primary and secondary schools is the number of teachers the child has. In primary schools it is usually just one. That means that building a good relationship over the years is potentially very easy. However, in secondary schools, not only do pupils have different teachers for each subject (and sometimes more than one teacher for the same subject), they also have a form tutor. The form tutor's role is to get to know the pupil from a general and also pastoral perspective. That is to say, his or her perspective is much broader than that of the subject teacher.

So, building up a good relationship between parents and teachers is likely to be much harder in secondary schools than in primary schools. And this is not helped by the fact that secondary schools tend to be larger than primary schools, which makes it harder for each teacher to get to know each pupil, at least for the first few weeks of a new term.

One other thing to bear in mind is that parents of primary school children talk to each other outside the school gates while they're waiting to pick up their children. This means that when a teacher does something nice for a pupil or class, news of that is likely to spread very quickly. That in itself helps to build good relationships between parents and teachers.

If we were to boil all this down to one key point, it would be that there are more conversations between parent and teacher in primary schools than in secondary schools, and it is conversations that help to build and cement relationships. So, the question becomes, how can a school create more opportunities for conversations between parents and teachers?

One way, of course, is to keep parents informed of their child's progress and achievements through applications like Messenger and Xpressions. You can find more information on the Groupcall website. In particular, have a look at these articles:

Being contactable

Alienated parents and how to improve relationships

Getting the message out

Topics: Parental engagement, Communication, Groupcall Messenger, Groupcall Xpressions