Joanne Gartside and her daughter Isobel Mandin take part in a video conference with Isobel’s teacher Joanna Nivison-Smith. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Joanne Gartside and her daughter Isobel Mandin take part in a video conference with Isobel’s teacher Joanna Nivison-Smith. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

No more face-to-face parent-teacher interviews

Coronavirus may have spelt the end of the traditional face-to-face parent and teacher conference.

Teachers, parents and students will this month begin meeting virtu­ally using video conferencing software Zoom, as parents are still banned from school grounds as a social distancing measure to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Principals are so confident in the technology, they have already dec­ided video conferencing will be a permanent addition, even after the pandemic is over.

And parents like Denistone mum Joanne Gartside would gladly never again attend a face-to-face parent-teacher meeting.

"I think it's an awesome idea," Ms Gartside said.

"Zoom's a whole lot more convenient because I don't have to rush off from work to the conference. I don't have to worry about trying to organise dinner either and I don't have to organise a babysitter in the event Isobel can't go to the conference with me."

Joanne Gartside with her daughter Isobel Mandin at their Denistone home during a Zoom conference call with Isobel's Year 3 teacher. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Joanne Gartside with her daughter Isobel Mandin at their Denistone home during a Zoom conference call with Isobel's Year 3 teacher. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

Teachers, students and parents ­became familiar with Zoom when schools urged pupils to learn from home between March and May. Ryde Public School teachers relied on Zoom video conference calls to conduct welfare checks of their students while they learned from home and read books together.

It also gave classmates a rare opportunity to see and speak with one another.

Ryde Public School's P&C committee last week voted unanimously to conduct future meetings online, as it gives more parents an opportunity to contribute.

Principal Thanh Ta said his teachers would probably conduct more than 300 online parent-teacher meetings in the week following June 24.

Joanne Gartside and her daughter Isobel Mandin take part in a video conference with Isobel’s teacher Joanna Nivison-Smith. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Joanne Gartside and her daughter Isobel Mandin take part in a video conference with Isobel’s teacher Joanna Nivison-Smith. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

The P&C video conferences are also more comfortable for separated parents to both attend.

Parents are able to select booking times most convenient for them between 3.30pm and 6.30pm.

Mr Ta said face-to-face meetings did allow more interaction but he ­expected more parents would be able to attend online meetings.

"The silver lining of the whole ­pandemic is that we are more familiar with video conferencing technology and not afraid to use it more often," Mr Ta said.

"We'll use video conferencing to our advantage even when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, because there are lots of time efficiencies we can gain from it."

According to new state government guidelines, all schools in NSW will conduct parent-teacher conferences remotely this semester.

Where parents do not have access to a reliable enough internet service, the interviews will be conducted on the phone.

Teachers will allow extra time for each conversation to account for any potential technical issues.

Originally published as No more face-to-face parent-teacher interviews