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Better reporting for parents - questions to ask them or staff?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Trendy Art, Feb 21, 2019.

  1. Trendy Art

    Trendy Art Star commenter

    My school is in the process of reviewing the traditional written reports. They are printed out and sent home. The written comments have to be reduced as they take too long to write and review - feedback from various colleagues have long stated this. I would like to make it an electronic process so that it also saves paper and reduces admin time of printing, quicker turnover, etc. Parents get them quicker so it makes the reports more relevant.

    As part of this I want to consult parents, staff, students, etc. The obvious question I had in mind for parents was of access to the Internet with a device, because if they don't then a report still has to be printed.

    Have you got thoughts on what questions other I should be asking of parents? Staff? Students?

    Thanking you great folk on the forums in advance.
  2. aypi

    aypi Senior commenter

    Here are a selection of reports:
    Jonny listens in class, asks for help when he needs it and works hard.
    Jonny listens in class, asks for help when he needs it and works hard most of the time.
    Jonny needs to listen more in class, he asks for help when he needs it and works most of the time.
    Jonny needs to listen more in class, he asks for help because he does not listen, and works some of the time.
    Jonny needs to listen more in class, he asks for help because he does not listen, and he hardly works at all.
    Jonny needs to listen more in class, he never asks for help, he has a nice phone.

    As a parent, all I want to know is if my children are working to the best of their ability.
    BetterNow, agathamorse and sbkrobson like this.
  3. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    Reports are for parents and about their children, so I wouldn't be asking the students about it. At all.
    You state that you could save precious admin time by not printing the reports, but if your reports are just one sheet of paper per child then how much time does that actually take? a 20 minute print run? 40 mins? Depends on your roll number, obviously, but it is definitely less time than it takes to run a student consultation about how they'd like their reports to be done.
    You can save staff time by giving the kids scores, offering much the same as the post above, but coded. Acheivement ?/5, Effort ?/5 etc and then a short comment if the scores are low/high. Up to the teachers. There's a thing, eh? Up to the teachers. If they claim to have no time to do this, then how about reducing their commitment to inputting "stuff" which serves only the filing cabinet rather than actual people.

    My own child's current reports are five pages long, double sided, with impenetrable performance data, target grades, test scores and three huge standard edu-blurb paragraphs with one amended sentence by the teacher. He variously is described as a girl, in the wrong year group, and intriguingly, in Art, as having made excellent disappointing progress. Bafflingly he has also completed two thirds of his Duke Of Edinburgh, which is a complete mystery. To him.
    Complete nonsense. Complete waste of paper. Complete overinflation of the meaning of school data. Complete riddles for those parents who are less literate than myself, and there are plenty.
    Reports are for parents, and if they are good reports (ie reflect well on the child), they are for the fridge door. They need be small, and to not overlap the holiday magnets.
    I dare you. Create some reports which are...gasp.... actually useful to parents.
    Too many schools fail to remember who the reports are for.

    Edit-I just recalled, some months ago a poster (GDW maybe?) posted a photo of their own report from way back. It was great, just as it should be now-one subject, a word or two, a clear indication of whether the parent ought to praise or cuss. Job done.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019
  4. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    in my childrens whole secondary education, I never got a written comment, just grades fro effort, homework, organisation, attitude to work, behaviour, etc.They were numbers, with the highest being the best, so could be added up , and the total needed to be a certain amount to indicate excellent, fine, ok, cause for concern...

    that worked out great for us.

    In primary school we had the copy and paste stuff like the examples from @aypi , with comments in every subject

    complete waste of time

    totally meaningless

    never bothered to read it
  5. aypi

    aypi Senior commenter

    You misunderstand dunnocks.
    I gave a range of reports, all with examples of comments. No pages and pages of meaningless twaddle. Just how the child is doing. If they are working towards an exam put in a percentage from a test and the likely grade will be somewhere.
  6. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    no, I don't misunderstand, I have experience of such comment banks, and I hate them
  7. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    What MIS is your school using? Most now have the functionality to write reports directly in and have them delivered to parents either to their primary email contact or through a parent app. Any parents unable to receive reports electronically should apply to the school office to have one printed. Alternatively there are third party products which simplify report writing and production.

    IMO written reports are almost worthless and could be replaced with no loss of value by some well chosen learning behaviour statements given a 1-5 grading.
  8. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    Indeed the MIS should be able to copy assessment data directly into the reports with no teacher intervention at all.
    The MIS should also allow spellchecking. The bit that really irritates parents is spelling of their children's names - Alasdair, Alister, Alatair, Alli, whatever. The MIS should be checking this too; and should also be capable of checking for his/her in reports, all done at admin level and centrally.
    The report is one of the few tangible things that parents get from school, so I believe that they must look really professional and personalised, although they need not be over-long. I am prejudiced against comment banks, although I accept that if you ban comment banks, teachers will use their own, whether copy-and-paste or from their own memory.
    It's fair these days to standardise on electronic delivery - there must be vanishingly few people without a smartphone - but provide printed copies on request. The MIS should be able to allow for this too.
  9. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    This is mine from 1963.

    Pupils in class? 44 (Not a typo. 44)

    Down the left is a list of subjects. On the right are the comments. This report was for the entire year.

    Reading - An excellent reader, which helps all her other work.
    Spoken English - Good steady term work.
    Arithmetic (Mechanical) - Very good. GDW tries hard and will accept a challenge well.
    Arithmetic (Problems)
    Arithmetic ( Mental)
    Handwriting - Good.
    History - Good. Shows great interest.
    Nature Study - Very good. Loves this work.
    Craftwork or Needlework - Good. Enjoys experimenting.
    PT and Games - Fair.
    Music - Good
    Art - Works well - could be neater.
    GDW has worked well during the year. She is a pleasant, helpful member of the class.

    Conduct - Very good.

    Head Teacher's Remarks - Has settled well in the Junior School and should now be encourages to "pull out all the stops".

    There you go. J1. Or YR3 in modern parlance. That's it. The lot.

    Do you think you get a flavour of the child in that? There are also some grades. A+ and A. That's it. It's enough. Isn't it? I don't know if other children had longer or shorter reports. But I think that, for me, it said enough. I later managed to get a bunch of Os and As and a degree. Did a lack of detailed reporting hold me back? I don't think so.
  10. maggie m

    maggie m Senior commenter

    My junior school reports (early 1970's) were like GDW's. Secondary school reports were similar. A grade or percentage for each subject and one sentence. A short comment from the form tutor and that was it.
    jlishman2158 and grumpydogwoman like this.
  11. frustum

    frustum Star commenter

    I used to reckon that at the secondary school I attended, the English teacher went first and used three adjectives, from which each of the other teachers chose two. There were occasional exceptions, which were usually the gems: "Frustum's high examination result is a consequence of her intelligence and not the passing interest which she occasionally shows in the subject."

    Daughter's school give us grades for attainment, progress and attitude to learning three times a year. No written comments. Accessed online - I don't know whether they have any parents who can't access them, but I doubt it. I think that where there are concerns, contact is made at an individual level. It seems to suffice, although sometimes we're not sure how much to read into them.

    Comment banks - horrible where it's obvious. Reasonable for someone who teaches the entire cohort once a week - but they can create their own (and then they will at least be different between subjects). Must be editable - because Jonny might be asking for more help than he requires and needs to be willing to tackle his work independently, and any number of other variations.
  12. Marshall

    Marshall Star commenter

    This has made me think! We revised our report format 5 years ago and it worked the first couple of years. BUT the teachers reverted back to comments from the national curriculum which parents struggled to understand. We don't use a report writing format.

    I tried to make it easier and it was, BUT the teachers wanted more but then they complained about the time it took and now want another revision.

    Will do this BUT it's them who need to change and they do acknowledge this!
  13. -myrtille-

    -myrtille- Occasional commenter

    At my school we do an effort grade where we enter -1, 0, +1 or +2 and this comes out on the report as "Disruptive Learner", "Consistent Learner", "Diligent Learner" or "Exceptional Learner".

    This accompanies the data which is just the child's current attainment and predicted grade.

    It fits on one page, and I think that gives parents an idea of how their child is doing, without being too onerous for the teacher. Parents' evenings provide an opportunity to actually hear from the teacher in detail in their own words.

    I personally don't mind typing a short comment for each student (so long as report deadlines for each year group are staggered throughout the year - not due for 250 kids on the same date!). I normally stuck to 2 sentences per child - one describing their effort/behaviour/work and one saying what they need to do next.

    eg: Johnny is a pleasant and polite student who usually works well in class although he can be rather chatty at times. He would benefit from revising vocabulary at home using Quizlet.

    I used to do these in a spreadsheet, then copy and paste the comments into SIMS. If the same statement applied to more than one child, I copied and pasted them too.

    I much preferred this approach to comment banks as the comment banks frequently messed things up (names, genders, general sentence structure, etc.!) and didn't always include what needed to be said.

    And to be honest I find it quicker to type what I think rather than deciding which statement to click on fits best. But I am quite quick at typing and appreciate teacher comments may be a lengthier process for others.

    The two main problems with typed teacher comments were:
    • Variability - some teachers wrote a massive paragraph, some wrote a sentence. Some pretty much copy and pasted the same sentence for everyone they taught, even if not appropriate, and the kids spotted this straight away.
    • Accuracy - lots of issues with spelling, punctuation and grammar (especially if people were trying to write 250 reports for a deadline) which led to more work for middle leaders being asked to proof-read everything and was generally more trouble than it was worth.
    So I'm not sure what the best option is, but hopefully the above has given you some ideas to think about. I would definitely say steer clear of comment banks though.
    jlishman2158 likes this.
  14. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    There's an argument for two types of comment (grades/levels/whatever are a separate issue). One is to limit them to tweet length, 140 characters. That can work well in my experience.
    The other approach is the opportunity of a longer piece of text. Again in my experience is you look at what staff are doing at present, then set up a new format with space for 25% more, within two report cycles you will have staff complaining that the reports are too short, and why have you changed things?
  15. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Who are these (forgive me) weirdos who complain that reports are too short?????

    • Most parents will try to come to a Parents Evening at least once. Or, if they're at work, send a grandparent along in their stead. A conversation is way more illuminating than a report.
    • If school has concerns about a kid (poor concentration or even insufficiently challenged) they'd have got in touch already.
    • Most parents don't understand the BS in the reports or DO realise it's BS and discount it as mere flim-flam.
    A report should just be a rubber-stamp that confirms what the parents already know. A brief précis. I look at the lengthy reports my grandkids get.

    I raise my eyebrows and think "copy and paste" for most of it.
    My daughter just wades through it and hopes their behaviour is OK. She knows they can basically read and write and do a bit of maths. Which is about all you can hope for at YRs 3 and 6.
  16. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    We send out A-E grades at each half term, with form teacher comments.
    (EYFS: no grades. KS1: Effort/behaviour grades. KS2 Effort/behaviour and attainment grades)

    At Christmas and Easter, we send out the same kind of grades but a few more comments.
    (EYFS: short individual comment on each characteristic of learning, prime area of learning and form teacher. KS1/KS2: short comment for English, maths and form teacher.)

    At the end of the year we have grades as above and comments for every subject, as well as form teacher.
    All comments throughout are restricted to 250 characters, so definitely not reams of writing.

    Works well enough.
  17. PGCE_tutor

    PGCE_tutor New commenter

    I well remember a parent at a parents' evening (primary) telling me, "All I want to know is - how's his reading and writing and is he behaving himself?"
    lindenlea likes this.
  18. drvs

    drvs Star commenter

    How do you grade poor learners who are not disruptive?
    minnie me and grumpydogwoman like this.
  19. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    How about ABE?
    Attainment - Star - Average Joe - Dunce
    Behaviour - Goody 2shoes - OK - Little G1t
    Effort - Works their socks off - Not a slacker - Lazy little toe rag

    So you can be a dunce with OK behaviour and isn't a slacker.

    But I don't agree that -1 ought to mean you're disruptive (if it's a measurement of effort rather than behaviour). -1 is just lazy to the point of narcolepsy but you're not necessarily disrupting anyone.
  20. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    my narcoleptic students are not lazy!

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