Covid-19 has presented challenges to everyone, both to individuals and industries across the board.  In particular teachers, parents and the education system in general have been faced with constantly changing Covid restrictions and disruptions in the classroom.  While at the same time being tasked with the daunting challenge of ensuring students don’t fall behind. It is now becoming increasingly clear the pandemic will have a lingering affect on students ranging from learning loss to social and mental health challenges.  But we shouldn’t allow Covid to only have had a negative impact on our education system and students. As we look forward to Covid restrictions being lifted further and a feeling of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we should be looking to see if there are things we can learn from the past few years and if there are lessons learned that can be applied moving forward to benefit students and parents.

For one Covid gave our education system a chance to run an experiment that they would have never undertook to the same extent if not for the pandemic.  We saw the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid, virtual and in person learning environments on a massive scale. 

Covid has also forced so many of us to become experts in video meetings. I know personally at Coster Services we have far fewer technical issues and instances of “You’re muted” than we did at the beginning of the pandemic!  We should be looking to leverage the worlds new familiarity with technology and video meetings; where it makes sense to do so.

During the pandemic Parents Booking supported schools in the challenge of maintaining parental engagement and connectivity with teachers in a virtual environment.  Virtual parent teacher conferences were praised because they lowered barriers to access, made sure meetings started and ended on time and ensured meetings took place when otherwise they would not have. 

Increasingly we also see that technology is becoming synonymous with accessibility.  Parents were able to attend a virtual parent conference from home or at work, which not only made it more convenient but also increased attendance and engagement.  Particularly for parents who normally wouldn’t be able to afford to take a day off work to attend an in-person conference, they could still attend even while taking a break at work.  Or for a parent who was traveling, they no longer needed to miss out on hearing about the successes or challenges their child was facing in the classroom because they were out of town. Additionally parents can request a translator when scheduling a virtual meeting. Logistically a school may not be able to easily offer a translator, in every requested language, if they are doing in-person conferences. These are all massive benefits that increase accessibility and communication between parents and teachers. 

Being able to support teachers who are working from home or outside of school has also been an improvement for staff. Teachers can now create their own mini-parent teacher conferences, at times that suit them and invite specific parents. This has meant parent teacher conferences can be much more ‘on demand’ both now and in the future. 

As we look to the future, and we head back to “normality” the next challenge will be how do we merge the benefits of virtual and in-person conferences.  While there are many schools who do not want to run anything by video going forward, for others a more hybrid model of combining both in-person and virtual meetings will bring the benefits of both. 

By no longer offering virtual meetings, schools risk excluding parents who found video meetings a valuable way of connecting to teachers.  They also run the risk of reducing accessibility, communication and attendance which the technology of virtual meetings provides.

We believe that a hybrid of in-person and virtual meetings is going to be a common solution to the pressures of wanting to have in-person conferences, without compromising on the benefits of virtual meetings.

You can currently create a hybrid parent teachers conference in Parents Booking, but Parents Booking’s primary concentration over the coming weeks and months will be building more functionality, to ensure that the needs of all schools can be met by this hybrid approach.

Please contact us if you have any questions or thoughts about how a hybrid parent teacher conference could be conducted at your school!