There are very few teachers who look forward to report-writing season. All too often it can be just another burden, which always seems to take place at the busiest points of the year and is just yet another administrative chore to be worked through.
However, good reports can be a vital part of the learning process for students, helping them understand the progress they have made to that point and crucially, helping them see what they need to do to improve further. They are also a valuable part of the parent engagement process, making sure that teachers, parents and students can work together better to achieve the best outcomes.
So, what can schools do to ensure that reports are useful and relevant to parents and students, whilst not simply adding to the workload of already busy teachers?
Think about who you are writing for
A report is of no use to anyone if it cannot be understood by its readers. Clarity and brevity are the key words here – call out key points so that the parents and students know what is important and keep reports brief. It can be too easy to confuse quantity with quality, but the longer a report is the less likely the reader is to pay attention and understand what the next steps should be. Shorter reports also require less time from teachers, which will be popular!
Give as full a picture as you can
Brevity does not have to mean anodyne. Wherever possible try and talk about the whole learning experience, not just grades. This helps to make the reports more personal to the family, establishes a sense of trust, (they really understand me/my child) and stops reports being too dry. The most memorable reports are those where the teacher shows a real interest in the student and what they bring to the school.
Lean on technology
There is a range of technological solutions on offer to schools to help streamline report-writing, but make sure you are getting the most out of them. This might be anything from simple grammar and spelling checks to the way reports are shared with students and parents. However, technology can also be used in other ways such as signposting useful resources, collating and analysing data, or even sharing online examples of a student's work. There are many ways to enhance reports with technology – talk to your providers who will be able to give you advice.
Do we need reports?
Controversial I know, but it is a question that is asked more and more frequently. There is a legal requirement to report back to parents, but there is no stipulation as to what format this must take. This gives schools the opportunity to consider what the purpose of reporting is, (or even what do they want it to be) and look at other ways of achieving those aims. Continuous reporting methods, student portfolios and learning diaries, online parents’ meetings – these all provide alternative approaches to the reporting process.
Lets start by asking ourselves why we are producing reports and then go from there. If we can begin to question some of the long-held traditions and perceptions of reports then we look at ways to get real value from them, and to make the process less painful for everyone involved.
If you would like more tips on making your reporting more efficent, feel free to download our latest guide: Making your school reports count.