Meetings: top tips

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Before the meeting

Do you know:

  • Where the meeting is? Do you have the full address, do you know the route to get there, do you know where to park? Do you need cash for the car park or is it an app?
  • The time? What time will it start? How long will it last?
  • Who will be there? You can ask who will be attending so there are no surprises when you get there
  • Why is it happening? Do you know the reason for the meeting?  If not, ask the person who invited you or arranged the meeting
  • What do I want to achieve? Think about the outcome you want before the meeting and make notes to take with you.  You can then refer to these at the end to check you have covered everything.
    Bullet points will be easier to read.

Thinks to think about:

  • How am I feeling? Try to speak and act in a calm, polite manner.  People are more likely to listen to what you say, and to try and work with you.  If this becomes difficult, ask for a break.
  • Have I written down all the questions I want to ask?
  • Have I got all the information and paperwork I need?
  • Do I want to ask someone to go with me? A partner or a friend.
  • Have I got the views of my child or will my child be there?
  • Will someone be taking notes? If someone goes with you, you could ask them and you can also ask the host at the beginning of the meeting.

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At the meeting

  • If there are no introductions at the start, ask who each person is and for a brief explanation of their role.
  • If jargon or acronyms are used, ask people to explain what they mean and check you understand before everyone moves on. It is common for abbreviations to be used without thought for someone present who may not be familiar with these terms.
  • If a report or new paperwork is brought to the meeting, ask for time to read it before it is discussed.
  • You know your child in a way that others do not and if you disagree with things being said about your child or suggestions for support, please say so.

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At the end of the meeting

  • Have I understood everything that was said?  Do others know my views?
    It may be helpful to confirm this by email or letter.
  • Do I feel that everyone can keep to agreements that have been reached?
  • Does everyone know what they are doing next?  What am I doing next?
  • Will I get notes or minutes of the meeting?  When?
  • If it is an Annual Review, will I see the AR02 form before the school sends it back to the Local Authority?
  • Is someone following up the agreed actions?
  • Confirm when, and how, we are going to review the progress?

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After the meeting:

  • It may be useful to write to whoever the  meeting was with to clarify and confirm your understanding of the points discussed and any actions that were agreed
  • Remember to follow up on everything that was agreed

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Other things to think about:

Keep copies of emails from professionals in their own folders in your inbox, then, when you think “I’m sure the OT sent me that”, you have fewer emails to look through.

Print off reports when you get them, correct any significant errors and send them back asking for thedocument to be amended and reissued. If you don’t, the incorrect information may appear in other important documents. Once something is recorded as fact, it is very difficult to change it.

Keep lever arch folders of letters and reports using marked dividers to split them into different services or professions, e.g. CAMHS, OT and write the date of every letter and report on the top right corner of the front page. Keep each section in date order, most recent at the front, to make filing new reports away easier and keeping the more up to date information most accessible.

Send an email confirming every conversation and meeting. Short and concise is best and request a read receipt. I find that this is a helpful format to use.

Dear Mrs Grey
Thank you for meeting me today with…..
My understanding of the conversation is that…..
You expressed the view that…….
Mr Pink told us that he had observed….
I explained that my son feels……
I understand that……
I remain concerned that……
We agreed that I will…… and you will……
You told me that you will refer my son to (example) service within (example) weeks
We agreed to meet again in (x) weeks/months or on (xth) of May to review the situation.
If my understanding of our meeting/conversation is different from your in any way, please let me know so we can clarify the matter.
Best wishes,

If you attend a meeting where there is an agenda, print the agenda with large gaps between items where you can make notes. Write up those notes ASAP, preferably within a day of the meeting. If you are unsure of what has been agree, ask everyone to help you decide what to write down.

When raising a concern by email, start by listing on how many occasions you have previously raised the same issue, e.g. “Dear Mr X, this is the third email I have sent to you to express concern about….. in the last three months.”

If you receive a paper report, ask for an electronic version too because that makes it much easier to copy and paste and to share it with other professionals. Local authorities can use only providing paper documents as a way of making it harder for you to request amendments to documents. They will have a way to send you encrypted files, if you request it, although it can be a little more of a long-winded process.

Look back through any relevant reports just before meetings to remind yourself of recommendations that have already been made by professionals. This will be really easy if they are filed together in date order. I know of several parents who, when called into school to discuss a problem behaviour, have asked the teacher whether they are implementing previously recommended strategies. It often turns out that they aren’t and, once they are reinstated, the problem is resolved. This is much better than the child being blamed or time and money being spent on an unnecessary new report.

Don’t assume that all the professionals working with your child have seen all the reports about them. Offer to send electronic copies where you think the content it important. If meetings are held without you present, request copies of minutes and action plans. Unless there is a child-protection concern or other children have been discussed at the same time, there should be no reason why you can’t have these.

Think about the way you label the files, especially if they are on an open shelf. Your child may not want their friends to see the files with their name on and ask what they are about or have a snoop while left alone in the room for a few minutes.

Consider carefully allowing your child to read the information you store about them. It can be helpful for them to know how professionals interpret what they do and say and I believe they have a right to know what is recorded about them and be given the opportunity to challenge it. They can also give you a different perspective on some situations recorded in reports which you can then pass on to those professionals if appropriate. Obviously it also depends on the age and stage of development of the child concerned. There is also an argument that some of the information recorded about them would be unhelpful for a vulnerable child to see so it’s your call, as their parent, to work out what is best for your particular child.

Some parents will prefer to store all their files electronically.

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