Is our system of reporting to parents fit for purpose?

Each year, I spend somewhere in the region of 70 hours (outside normal working hours) writing reports which are to be sent home to parents. These reports are meant to give an overview of the student’s progress throughout the year and inform parents on their child’s strengths and weaknesses. I get the feeling, however, that the time I am spending has very little impact on the student and their progress.

My school has recently focussed on impactful assessment and feedback, encouraging us to spend less time writing detailed feedback and more time getting students to respond to feedback. This has been largely successful – teachers are spending less time marking and students are gaining more from the feedback given (win-win!).

We have not, however, extended this new mantra to report writing. As a teacher of a creative subject, this is one of the most stressful parts of the year due to the sheer volume of reports that I must complete. It varies each year, but I usually have to write 400-500 reports yearly, each containing an adequate and imformative assessment of the student. If I am unable to provide an individual report, I feel as though I have failed in knowing my students.

After a number of years of writing highly personalised reports, I am becoming disenchanted as I don’t believe that they are impactful – I am unable to see that what I write in the report has any impact on the progress of the student in my classroom. This is in stark contrast to parents’ evening, where the change in a student’s attitude to the lessons is immediately noticeable.

The difference between the report and parents’ evening is that parents are able to respond to my feedback immediately and I am able to respond to their response. They can ask me questions about my comments and I am able to obtain a bigger picture for that student. When I send home a piece of paper with some comments on, I have no idea if the parent has even read the comments!

In an age where technology is growing, I wonder whether the paper is fit for purpose and we should consider if there are alternatives to allow more dialogue between teachers and parents, as demonstrated in my parents’ evening example. There are many ways of approaching this – whether it be digital reports with comments boxes for parents, or even the expansion of parents evenings, but we really must start to consider how efficient the system is and if there is a more efficient alternative.

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7 thoughts on “Is our system of reporting to parents fit for purpose?

  1. Last year we held a forum with parents as part of our reporting redesign process. We did similar with teachers and students. We started off with a genuine ‘blank sheet of paper’ in terms of where we would end up.

    We put forward a dozen or so possible models – not to pick from but to stimulate discussion and debate – from full narrative reports once a year through to numerical ‘snapshot’ reports with greater frequency (the teacher just enters grade from 1-5 for behaviour, effort etc. and a current level/grade or whatever).

    The outcome – our parents wanted genuine clarity/honesty not sugarcoated words about current attainment and progress, higher frequency with less info on each report, knowing areas of strengths & weakness. Staff and students had similar lists.

    We now report 3 times a year (twice for subjects who see students less frequently), each report has 1-5 score for effort, behaviour etc. along with a couple of areas of strength and a couple of areas to be worked on (these are selected from a menu that each subject has written).

    Only with year 7 so far but review feedback is very positive.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It sounds like your school is a little behind with things. Your leadership need to think about the time/cost/value of these reports. What ‘value’ do they hold? Does the amount of time spent on them balance that value? If not, modify or ditch them.

    Many schools use online reporting systems. My last school didn’t ‘write’ reports at all.

    I’ve also suggested getting the best people possible to write them here; the students. Learning progress isn’t a mystery or secret held by the teacher. The student should know the most about their progress.
    https://missdcoxblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/life-without-levels-how-to-report/

    A colleague said to me, reports aren’t necessary for a parent, if they want to find out how their child is getting on they should read their exercise book. I like this. If we’re spending hours marking and feeding back then their book should be the ultimate report for the parents. They can see for themselves, possible with your extra commentary at parents evening.

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      • That’s interesting because we do. Especially now KS4 is getting more theory based these subjects are ensuring the written skills needed to be successful at GCSE are embedded at KS3.

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