The Daily Mail says they may have been hand- written scrawls, but school reports could once be relied on for a blunt assessment of a pupil’s progress. Now, it continues, it has emerged that thousands of primary and secondary school teachers are relying on computer software to do the work for them…
The software, which costs up to £350, allows them to produce reports in seconds by simply giving the child’s name and ability, then clicking on bland stock phrases.
One software package, ReportBox, is used in just under 300 primary schools in the UK. The company says about 3,000 teachers are using it.
All they have to do is cut and paste the names of their pupils into a blank box.
The software, designed by an ex-teacher, even guesses the gender of the child, based on their names.
They then get access to 15,000 frequently used comments.
For example, if a child is of higher ability, the demo shows the report would read that he or she ‘enjoys all aspects of art and is able to put excellent imagination and attention to detail to good use.’
Middle or lower ability children would get remarks such as: ‘Ben enjoys all aspects of art and is able to produce some good paintings and drawings. In order to perfect these he needs to pay closer attention to detail and take more care with work.’
ReportBox costs £99 plus VAT to help write reports for up to 100 pupils and £299 plus VAT for an unlimited number of students.
One deputy head said it meant she and her colleagues didn’t have to ‘spend all weekend’ writing reports.
Another wrote in an online review: ‘While my colleagues speak of being up at 2am writing reports, mine took just over three hours to sort out, not 33 hours!’
But critics described it as ‘lazy’ and said parents were being ‘short-changed.’
Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘This is a very lazy way of writing reports.
‘The schools are educating the children on behalf of the parents and have a duty to inform them. I know, where a teacher has a lot of pupils, it’s a bit of a chore.
‘But it’s his or her responsibility to provide detailed, personal information to the parent – not just summon up these general phrases.
‘Parents have a right to receive particular information about their child, not computer generated generalisations.’
Another software package, called The Report King, is designed so that all teachers have to do is type in ‘l’ for lower achiever, ‘m’ for medium achiever or ‘h’ for high achiever.
They are then offered a selection of suitable stock remarks to choose from.
It claims the system ‘conforms fully with the expectation of Ofsted, your local authority, head teachers and parents’. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, denied it was a ‘lazy’ way to write reports.
‘It would be if everyone was getting the same reports, but that’s not the case with the software now,’ he said.