School reports: could teachers do better?

Parents complain that school reports are often computer-generated and impersonal – but teachers say they don’t have time to write hundreds of reports. Are parents asking too much? This is from the Guardian…

The school report is the traditional end to the academic year. But parents are more critical of them than ever: some say computer-generated comments are too bland and general, while teachers grumble about having to produce hundreds of reports in the midst of the busiest term. So what’s the truth of it: could schools make their reports more personal, or are parents simply asking too much?

Simon Hepburn, head of chemistry at St Bede’s College, Manchester

We live in an instant-feedback society, so parents expect to know what’s happening to their child at school on a more regular basis than once a year. And there’s no reason why they can’t have that, because the virtual learning environment (VLE) makes it much easier. What we do at my school is write all our comments on a pupil’s work into the VLE, and parents can log in and see them. It makes a lot of sense, because teachers are making their comments anyway – and instead of the old way, scribbling in the margin of an essay, you write into a website and it stays there for parents to look at. So it’s a better use of a teacher’s time; and as well as academic feedback, they can see information on their child’s behaviour and attendance.

Jane Brown (not her real name), parent

According to our son’s report, he very much enjoyed going up a tower on the year 4 trip to a castle, and got a lot from the experience. The only problem was …he hadn’t been up the tower. He’d been on the trip, but hadn’t been happy with the idea of going up the tower, so sat it out at the bottom! It made me think how pointless reports are, when they don’t even get it right – you lose confidence in the school. We laughed about it with other parents, but it’s obviously quite disappointing. And so much of the rest of the report was just about targets – “x has learned this, and x has done that”. What a parent wants is something personal that paints a picture of your own child.

Matthew Read, head of Oriel primary school in Hounslow

We use Reportbox, a computer-based tool to help teachers write reports. It enables us to draw up a bank of comments and then the repetitive information, about what pupils are learning and so on, is automated and teachers’ time is saved. Of course we put in personal comments, too. The tool means we can build up a child’s report through the entire school year so the document is a work in progress. There’s inevitably some crossover in report-writing – for example, you’ll often get three or four pupils about whom you want to say something similar about their maths ability. In three years of using the programme, I’ve never had a single complaint.

David Whitaker, head of Springwell community special school in Barnsley

We’d never use a computer programme where you tick a box so a phrase drops into a report – it’s not personal enough. A child’s report isthe key communication between school and home; what’s more, reports tend to be put away in a drawer and pulled out decades later. It’s not merely a letter home, it’s much more than that. The teachers on my staff write their reports in a Word document, and each one is individual. Having said that, we do only have 80 pupils on roll; up the road there’s a 2,000-pupil secondary, and I appreciate that the constraints are very different there.

See more responses at:  School reports: could teachers do better?

What are your thoughts about reports? As a parent, are you satisfied with the report you child brings home? As a teacher, do you write by hand or use software like @ReportBox to generate reports? If the later, do you think they are good enough (or perhaps even better)? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

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  1. kathrynmc77

    SchoolsImprove always write mine by hand based on what i know. Takes hours but is more personal have used software before and dont like it.

  2. Kipneath

    SchoolsImprove I used to handwrite 500 reports twice a year – always personalised. At #kipmcgrath, parents get weekly personalised feedback

  3. zsharman

    SchoolsImprove no – cant work any harder, longer or do more – In 30 years I have never worked harder than I do now. Exhausted

  4. JulieADexter

    SchoolsImprove Yep. Don’t like system of cut, paste statements. Impersonal. Often a child’s given wrong name due to pasting without edit!

  5. DanielleButton

    SchoolsImprove I don’t know a single teacher who wouldn’t want to give comprehensive feedback, but it’s an issue of time & work load.

  6. nathalieweide

    SchoolsImprove v. diff. when u teach once a week subject. Could mean 300plus reports. Primary? 30 students only…should be personlised.

  7. PennyFray1

    Secondary v difficult if you teach whole year group! Primary likely to know child better so more personalised. Often is ancient history before report has been through entire system. Face 2 Face more immediate, P Eve better outcome.

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