12 Parents' perspectives
12.1 In the qualitative research, we explored parents' views on the accessibility and approachability of school staff in relation to their children's behaviour and relationships at school. Parents were also asked about ethos, transition to secondary school and support during exams and their views on these topics are incorporated in the relevant sections of this report (see paragraphs 11.47 to 11.93 on ethos and Chapter 8 on transitions and support during exams).
12.2 On the whole, parents who took part in the qualitative research were positive about the availability and accessibility of school staff.
12.3 Primary parents frequently reported being able to easily see staff face-to-face, often without an appointment. Other methods of communication open to them were email and Apps, which were considered useful in terms of the flexibility they offered.
12.4 Secondary parents tended to approach their child's guidance teacher when they had a concern and were generally positive about these links.
12.5 Parents' evenings were the main way in which schools communicated with parents about their child's behaviour and relationships.
12.6 Beyond parents' evenings, parents tended not to hear much from the school in relation to their child's behaviour and relationships unless there was a problem. Some parents were content that they would be informed promptly if there was a problem while others expressed a desire for more feedback.
12.7 Parents of secondary pupils reported a reduction in the amount of feedback from primary to secondary school and, again, there were mixed views on whether this was appropriate.
12.8 Parents were generally supportive of the way behaviour was managed at their child's school.
12.10 Parents' experiences of contacting the school when they had a concern about their child varied, but they were generally positive. Primary parents, in particular, commented that they had 'every opportunity to contact the school'. Some were easily able to speak to school staff face-to-face (often at very short notice and without an appointment).
Easy, you just phone up and ask for an appointment and you're given an appointment, or if you feel like you need to do it there and then and you come in, then there is always someone to talk to.
12.11 Others, however, had found it more difficult to arrange an appointment with teachers and reported using other means of contact instead.
…the teachers and the headteacher are so busy and trying to get contact from them is quite difficult sometimes. […] I ended up sending an email because I thought, well that's maybe the easiest way and then they did respond. […] they're very rarely in the office.
12.12 Email was the preferred communication method among some parents since it offered greater flexibility in terms of timing, i.e. they could send an email in the evening if they were working during the day and unable to phone or go to the school. A number of schools had also introduced Apps to facilitate communication between parents and teachers – which parents were positive about.
12.13 Parents raised the issue that schools often preferred them to speak to the headteacher rather than the class teacher if they had a concern, or wanted to pass on information about something that had happened at home. While there was an understanding that schools did this to avoid the class teacher being interrupted, some parents would prefer to have the opportunity to speak to the class teacher directly where possible.
12.14 In secondary schools, parents tended to approach their child's guidance teacher when they had a concern. In the main, they were very positive about their links with guidance teachers and found them to be approachable.
Yes, pastoral care is really lovely. The woman I've dealt with, she is very, very good, when I have had to speak, twice I had to speak to the school about something and she was very good, very, very good… sat down and had a chat she was very welcoming and listened and was supportive.
12.15 However, in one school, parents talked about not knowing who to approach if they had a problem. They suggested providing parents with this information (including the best time to get hold of the person) at the start of each school year.
12.16 Events where staff and parents interacted together and could talk in an informal way were considered helpful in enabling communication between parents and staff as they made parents feel that the staff were more approachable. The SMT, in particular, seemed less 'intimidating' as a result.
Communications regarding behaviour and relationships
12.17 Parents' evenings were the main way in which schools communicated with parents about their child's behaviour and relationships. Schools tended to hold two parents' evenings per year, with slots for parents lasting around 10 minutes. While behaviour was covered in these meetings, to varying degrees, there was a view that the time slot was not long enough to cover everything in detail.
12.18 Beyond parents' evenings, parents tended not to hear much from the school in relation to their child's behaviour and relationships unless there was a problem. Views on this were mixed, with some parents content that they would be informed promptly if there was a problem. This was particularly true in cases where the school communicated regularly with parents about things that they would consider less important: the fact that there was communication about these more minor matters reassured them that there would also be communication if there was a concern. There was also some support for not telling parents about 'every little thing' in order to encourage pupils to take responsibility and resolve issues themselves. On the other hand, there were parents who would, ideally, welcome more feedback, including positive feedback. However, these parents did acknowledge the constraints on teachers' time.
12.19 There was also a feeling that what happens in the playground, as well as the classroom, is important in terms of behaviour and relationships. This does not tend to be fed back to parents via existing mechanisms such as parents' evenings as it is usually support staff who witness this. For some parents, hearing about what happens in the playground would reassure them that the school is looking out for their child more widely.
... obviously you can't report back every single day about every child, you would never be able to do any work. But if they have found that when they're outside they have seen a child is sitting and still sitting on their own, and say it's been a week and they're still sitting on their own, then there needs to be a call to see if everything is all right. Then to say, 'okay, so if everything is okay at home, then can we put something in place to say to start up some games in the playground and they're run by adults?'
So, just a certain amount of times you get your phone call, just so that you know they're actually watching your children as well, and they're acknowledging who they are. It's nice to know that they know them personally, to know that they were sat on a chair for a week, that's not like them, or they're getting into an argument, it's not like them, what's happening? You rely on a lot from the teacher and a lot of behaviour, the teacher doesn't experience it, so it would be nice to be reassured, yes.
12.20 Parents of secondary pupils commented on the reduction in the amount of feedback from primary to secondary school and, again there were mixed views on whether this was appropriate. To ease the transition to secondary, some schools gave more feedback to parents in S1 than in other secondary years. At one school, this involved sending 'postcards' home to parents containing detailed information on their child's behaviour and effort as well as academic progress and, at another school, holding early parents' evenings with guidance teachers (see paragraphs 8.10 to 8.14 on transitions).
Parental views on how behaviour is managed with school
12.21 Parents did not talk in detail about the way that their child's school managed behaviour. However, they were aware of rewards-based systems and were generally supportive of them – and of the wider principle of praising positive behaviour. When parents had needed to contact the school about a specific incident, they were, on the whole, satisfied that the school had acted quickly and effectively to resolve it.