Achievement for All
The Structured Conversation Training Materials
Following the training of key teachers in the first year of the project, the National Strategies AfA Team have held focus group meetings in each
pilot authority with a range of school project leaders and key teachers to reflect on:
‘The Structured Conversation: Handbook to Support Training’
The quality of any subsequent cascade training that many have taken part in.
The discussions aimed to gather feedback on the effectiveness of the current materials and the arrangements for training, to support and
inform this supplementary guidance. The supplementary guidance is intended to help schools to prepare for year two of the project as more
teachers become involved in holding structured conversations with parents.
This additional guidance should be used in conjunction with two current resources:
1) ‘The Structured Conversation: Handbook to Support Training’
2) ‘The Structured Conversation – What’s Working Well’, both of which are available on the AfA website at:
Local Authority and school project leaders should consider training in holding the structured conversations for the following four groups:
Current key teachers in Y1, Y5, Y7 and Y10 who would benefit from refresher training;
Teachers of pupils in Y2, Y6, Y8 and Y11 who will be holding structured conversations for the first time in the summer term 2010 as
part of a school’s transition arrangements;
Teachers new to Y1, Y5, Y7 or Y10 who will be holding structured conversations for the first time in the autumn term, or
Teachers of pupils in Y2, Y6, Y8 and Y11 who will be holding structured conversations for the first time in the autumn term 2010
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Local Authority Project Leaders
LA Project Leaders will implement plans to hold further structured conversation training that ensures:
All key teachers have access to high quality differentiated training; and
Schools are well advanced in their preparations during the summer term 2010 so that structured conversations are held promptly at
the start of the autumn term for all parents of the target pupils, whatever the year group.
National Strategy AfA Senior Advisers will, wherever possible, quality assure the training provided by the LA to ensure that it adheres to the
principles of and retains fidelity to the original materials.
What the focus groups are telling us.
School project leaders and key teachers are reporting that:
Overall, the materials are extremely useful in supporting colleagues to deliver training and hold conversations with parents.
The structure of the handbook does not require any significant changes. The content, however, could be strengthened, for example by
providing alternative training models.
The introduction provides a succinct and useful overview. In addition to the training for key teachers, it can be used successfully to
raise the awareness of AfA for all staff, governors and/or parents.
Part 1: Guide to the Structured Conversations is straightforward; the diagrammatic representation of the framework (page 9) is a helpful
aide memoir of the key aspects and skills used in the structured conversation. The section on negotiating a contract is considered to be
The model agenda (page 20) in Part 2: Guidance for Course Leaders ensures all the key aspects of training are covered thoroughly,
and should enable the course leader to deliver successful training.
The full day programme is considered to be unnecessarily long but by adjusting the timings to a half day course, providers can still
deliver training which adheres to the principles and covers all the key points of the framework.
Within a half day programme it is possible to include a session for key teachers on how best to prepare for the structured conversations;
for example, contacting parents; preparing the room; gathering information prior to the meeting, supporting parents with the target
setting process and then sharing the outcomes with the appropriate audience.
Time was added into some training sessions to provide an opportunity for participants to discuss potential barriers and share possible
solutions e.g. where parents are more reluctant to engage in the structured conversation or where parents simply do not attend.
Some of the exercises in the training did not lend themselves particularly well to the activity, e.g. exercise 3, paraphrasing (1) (page 26).
It is important to train groups which are sufficiently large to facilitate working in triads and as such, smaller schools, or where there are
fewer staff involved, might wish to arrange joint sessions with other schools.
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Second conversations were significantly more straightforward to arrange when preparations for the first had been thoroughly planned
and implemented. Parents regarded the conversations as an on-going process, building on the initial discussions
The DVD is regarded as a powerful example of how to hold a structured conversation. Many groups commented on the potential value
of producing a suite of additional DVDs to illustrate different settings and situations, e.g. in a primary school; holding a conversation
through a translator; meeting with an initially unresponsive parent; meeting with both parents or the extended family, although there was
no expectation that these would be provided.
Other than shortening the day and changing some of the topics in the role play activities, few course leaders changed the materials
when cascading training. Where materials were changed, they were personalised to reflect a particular school context.
The model record in the resources section (page 35) is useful to record the key points and agreed actions. Schools adapted the record
sheet whilst others preferred to continue using an existing proforma.
Suggested strategies to strengthen the existing materials
The focus group members offered a range of suggestions for colleagues to consider when delivering the training. These are based on their
experiences and, as such, are intended to strengthen, rather than replace, any of the materials. Adaptations, either to the course or the
materials, must retain fidelity to the principles contained within The Structured Conversation: Handbook to support training.
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The following diagrams provide supplementary guidance to the handbook as collated from the experiences of the focus groups
Part 1: Guide to the structured
conversation Part 2: Guidance for course leaders
The timings can be adapted to fit a half day
Emphasise to the audience that not all parents will
session whilst still adhering to the order and
initially be willing to attend a structured
content (see over for example agenda).
conversation, and schools will need therefore to
consider from the outset, strategies on how to In addition to using a shortened version of the
engage all parents, including those that are harder training, a coaching model is useful where the
The Structured teacher observes the trainer carrying out a
Emphasise the importance of key teachers striking
Conversation structured conversation. This can be particularly
Handbook to effective where colleagues are less confident
the balance between more active listening and
about carrying out the conversations.
less talking to parents. Support Training:
Adapt the exercises to reflect the context of the
Point out that, not all initial conversations will take Supplementary school or teachers needs.
the same length of time; second conversations
may take even less time, but always plan for an
Guidance The use of the word miracle (exercise 6; Using
hour; any spare time can be used to record the questions, page 29) can be substituted with
outcomes. phrases such as “what one thing would make the
It is possible to adapt any of the given examples
provided to ones which are more specific, if Include time in the agenda for key teachers to
desirable. share strategies to engage hard to reach parents.
Negotiating a contract is key to the success of the Include time in the agenda for worst case
conversation. scenarios, i.e. what to do when things don’t go
according to plan, where parents find it
Empowering parents and giving them permission
problematic to focus on one key area, or where
to question the key teacher is a useful strategy, for
parents simply do not attend.
example, “I am going to say something and if you
don’t agree with it, tell me why”. Include time in the agenda for discussing
strategies for engaging parents in setting targets.
Stress the importance of preparing for the
meeting. Gather information from all staff that Consider providing a crib sheet or list of the types
teach and support the pupil beforehand; if of questions key teachers might want to use to
possible, gain the views of the child. Many encourage conversations.
schools report the importance of establishing a Cascading training can work well across clusters
simple recording mechanism to facilitate this. of schools to provide a richer experience and
Emphasise the importance of agreeing targets in sharing of ideas. Larger numbers of participants
the structured conversation. also facilitates working in triads.
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Part 3: Resources and DVD The structured conversation
“What’s Working Well”
The DVD is a very useful component of the training.
The powerpoint presentation can be adapted and added In addition to the earlier version of the “what’s working
to, as appropriate well” sheets, the following tips have been suggested by
the focus groups:
Use Handout 6 (page 37) to prompt reflection and self
assessment. Text parents to remind them of the appointment time
The action plan is useful for recording outcomes. Some and for any other on-going communication.
schools have adapted this plan to make it more pupil Conversation Hold a pre structured conversation on the phone with
friendly or used it to replace their current IEPs. Handbook to parents to reassure the more reluctant ones of the
Avoid the use of teacher shorthand when recording the Support Training: purpose of the meeting.
key points and actions from the conversation as parents Supplementary Hold the structured conversations as soon after the
will not necessarily understand the meaning. training as possible.
Guidance Give parents the choice of whether they also want to
Alternative agenda for a half day training session: attend the usual parent’s evening meetings.
08.45 Arrive & Coffee Encourage key teachers, with the parent’s permission,
09:00 Introduction: aims of the day, ground rules, aims to video the conversation for the purpose of self
of the SC assessment by the teacher. The video is NOT shared
09:15 Setting up the SC: organisation, environment, with anyone else.
negotiating a contract Offer a range of times for parents to attend meetings
09:30 Explanation of the framework for the SC covering the whole day from 8am to 7pm.
09:40 Stage 1- Exploring: Attending & Non-Verbal Replace the word “targets” with “next steps”.
Communication, paraphrasing Have resources available to share with parents during
10:00 Demonstration of the SC: DVD and activity the conversation, any of which they could use at
10:20 Stage 2- Focusing: Summarising, Miracle Question home.
10:40 Coffee Make a directory of available support in the locality to
11:00 Stage 3 – Planning: Setting goals and targets sign-post to parents; include a telephone contact if
discussion around setting targets in the SC possible.
11:30 Stage 4: Reviewing Encourage reluctant parents to invite a key person for
11:45 Reflecting on the conversation the child, other than themselves to the meeting, e.g.
12:00 Sharing practical examples of good practice, an elder sibling, grandparents or a neighbour.
discussing specific issues, questions
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