The end of term for me is filled with hours and hours of report reading. This half-term alone, I have proofread three year groups worth of reports. On the one hand, I enjoy reading through them and getting to know each student and how they are performing in each subject, but on the other hand, I can’t help but think about all of the other things I could be doing, things which could be more productive and be having a greater impact for the School.
At my School, we currently send out one written report each year, with two Parents’ Evenings being held in the other two terms. Proofreading reports is vital as they are a formal document which reflects the professionalism of our staff. But, do they include what parents what to know about their students? Are written reports out dated? Could our reports be streamlined to identify more clearly to parents how their child is doing and to reduce time for checking and editing in school?
I believe that any information that is shared should be current, up to date and meaningful. Writing personalised reports may sound good, but are they useful when they have been written up to a month before they are sent home? Comments on how polite, well-behaved and diligent a student is usually appear at the start a report comment but as parents is that what you want to hear? For every subject your child is studying? My parents must have been sick of the word ‘conscientious’ by the time I left school as it seemed to appear in every subject report comment I received. For most parents this is how they have brought their child up to be, know this is how they are would expect this behaviour from them! If they are not behaving appropriately then they would want to know – but is a report comment for this too late?
In my opinion subject reports should include subject-specific information that inform the student and their parents about what aspects of their work they are doing well in, what areas they need to work on and, most importantly, how they can make these improvements. Too often, comments tell students they must improve on something but do not tell them how! I am daring to move away from written reports to a more comment-based approach to get away from the ‘fluffy’, subjective comments which are hard to write and time-consuming to check.
This format can also form the basis of Parents’ Evening discussions, teachers can talk about to what extent the student has achieved their targets from the previous report/meeting and then what their next targets are. Having this focus on learning every term can really help students to improve. They have the time in between each discussion to make progress and know exactly what they need to work on, without being overloaded.
I’m hoping this approach will enable teachers to provide personalised, specific feedback to students and their parents, that will reach them quicker and have a greater impact on their learning. Comments about how the student is doing pastorally are still so important but I would like this to be the job of the form tutor – who is the students first port of call and who staff will go to with any celebrations or concerns.