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C3 Module 3.3

Sharing concerns with parents

Before You Begin

Imagine you have to raise a concern with a colleague or friend about their wellbeing. What could you do to help the interaction go well?

School staff will be familiar with raising worries or concerns about student learning, but may feel less confident when raising concerns about students’ emotional wellbeing.

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There may be times when you become concerned about a student’s emotional or mental wellbeing – how do you share these concerns with parents?

Approaches to raising concerns

Different types of concerns will require different approaches. A concern about student safety, for example, may require mandatory reporting or other legal obligations. Concerns related to changes in student behaviour or attitude are often handled directly with the student in the first instance – with the teacher ‘checking-in’ with the student to understand what is happening and to gauge the level of concern and the likelihood that any difficulties will be ongoing. More serious worries or concerns may need to be taken up with parents, ideally with agreement from the student. If there is no immediate apparent risk, it may be more appropriate to wait and observe the situation for a while or perhaps gather more information from other staff members.

School procedures

Schools will have their own policies and procedures to guide staff in what to do when they have a concern. The policies and procedures will be different for every school and you should consider the following:
  • What concerns should I handle?
  • At what point should I refer the concern to leadership or welfare staff?
  • What are the legal obligations around mandatory reporting if a student or parent shares information that raises concerns about the student’s safety?
  • What resources, such as local services, can I refer parents to?
  • How do I respond to families with shared custody?
  • Do I require additional training to effectively communicate with parents?
  • How will the school work with parents who would benefit from additional support from leadership or welfare staff?

The importance of discussing options with senior staff

Sometimes, when a concern is raised, it is appropriate for school staff to request support from senior leadership or welfare staff. These groups should be consulted if:
  • the concern or worry is serious and potentially related to student safety or risks to others
  • there is a history of difficulties with the family, or the family is already linked into services
  • the staff member requires support in relation to the concern. For example they are inexperienced in working with families.

Planning to share concerns

When planning to share concerns with parents, it is important to gather as much information as possible, with tangible examples of the concern, and its impact on the student, staff member and school.

Consider who is best placed to have the conversation. Depending upon the type and level of concern, it may be more appropriate for a teacher to refer the student to wellbeing staff, rather than make contact directly with parents. If the parent is known to a staff member, it may be easier to make contact and raise the concern than if there is no pre-existing relationship. Decisions should then be made about when and how to include the student, particularly older students.

Decide on how to make initial contact. Consider your timing and the amount of information to share. Plan a method for communicating concerns and be prepared for a range of parent responses.

What three tips would you give a colleague to help them communicate their concerns to parents?

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