Earlier today I read this post on the purpose of parents’ evenings by David James. It’s an excellent exploration of some of the vagaries and oddness of being either side of the table, but ultimately it doesn’t answer the question: What are parents’ evenings for?
This is something my wife explained a number of years ago.
For some reason neither of us can remember, I was allowed to attend our daughters’ parents evening alone. Being a teacher I felt fairly confident of my role in proceedings: to hold the teachers to account. I scrutinised their books, looked carefully for the impact of feedback, and tried to understand how and why my eldest daughter had been awarded a 3a for writing. (To my secondary trained eyes it looked like it ought to be a good level 4.) I asked the teacher to explain how the level had been awarded and she proceeded to refer to particular pieces of writing and point out the features that made it a 3a. We then looked over the mark scheme and I pointed out the feature which made my daughter’s writing a level 4. The teacher thanked me and I swanned off, content in the knowledge of a job well done.
When, later that same evening I was debriefed on how the meeting had gone, I smugly set out how ably I’d championed our daughters. She groaned despairingly and said she’d write a letter of apology in the morning. Why? I howled. What have I done wrong? 
It turns out, as my wife patiently explained, that the purpose of parents’ evenings is not to hold the teachers to account but to get them to like your children. In that I had signally failed.
Who knew?