Before the pandemic, schools were already grappling with the challenge of managing multiple appointment times at these events. Some created an elaborate and complicated system to manage the process.
Others, however, had already started to see the light and were using an online appointment booking system - not least to try and reduce the administration staff work load.
Primary schools, secondary schools and independent schools alike were moving away from the old paper based system for parents' evenings. The generally chaotic nature of these events was easing - but it took a worldwide pandemic to really revolutionise things with video conference calls for schools.
What are the key benefits of video calls for school parents’ evenings?
With the best will in the world, many parents struggle to attend school events, what with work, childcare and caring commitments.
Video calls have put them in control of their own appointment times. They can log in from the comfort of their own homes, or even from a different time zone if they’re working away from home.
In addition, video calls can be less stressful than in-person parents’ evenings for blended or separated families. There isn’t even a need for them to be in the same room.
Being completely honest, we wouldn’t always describe traditional parents’ evenings as slick affairs, would we?
Remember the queues forming for some teachers but not others?
And parents unintentionally – or intentionally – interrupting meetings taking place between teachers and other parents?
Not to mention the lack of privacy when a meeting between a teacher and parents at one table can be overheard by those at the next table.
Video calls ensure you only have the people you want in your virtual room.
Some people just love to talk, don't they?
But why is it always the people just ahead of you in the queue?
Thankfully, video calls provide focus. The 'countdown' tool means that there is no chance of appointment times over-running, and helps people ensure they are concise and to the point.
Most schools report that parental attendance at parents' evenings increases when they use an online booking system combined with video calls.
It's particularly good for hard-to-reach families who may have good reasons for not coming to an event in school - from physical access and disability, to other caring commitments and transport issues.
Video calls offer safety and reassurance that could otherwise be lacking.
What should a top notch parents' evening system provide?
Online booking, amendment and cancellation self-service options.
Reminders for late responding parents.
Confirmation notifications as soon as they book their slots - and reminders too.
Schedule own availability and rest breaks.
Allow them to make notes in real time, on the evening.
Provide reports on parental attendance.
For school administrators:
Fewer phone calls home, chasing parents and dealing with queries.
Overview of what's booked in, so issues can be identified in advance.
Complete reporting of booking and attendance rates.
What's the verdict?
At Weduc, we think both school staff and parents universally agree that an online parents' evening system - with video calls for schools - brings benefits. It may not be the only way to run events, but it's a powerful tool to have.
How can you make a parents' evening system easy to access?