Paul McDaniel  BCCF180554
Mr. Paul McDaniel
26 November, 2021

Reports - Reading Between the Lines.

Report 2
Reports - Reading Between the Lines. Our first academic reports of the year are almost upon us, an event that can sometimes lead to anxiety for pupils, parents and teachers. It shouldn’t be that way, however, if we all understand the purpose and content of school reports.

 Our first academic reports of the year are almost upon us, an event that can sometimes lead to anxiety for pupils, parents and teachers. It shouldn’t be that way, however, if we all understand the purpose and content of school reports.


It’s a well-worn TV and movie trope: the lackadaisical student is handed his report card (it’s almost always a boy, isn’t it?), and he surveys a sea of D-minuses and Fs before stuffing it hastily into his bag, where it will stay well out of sight of his clueless parents. Report time is often built up to be something it shouldn’t be: a judgement from on high, a damning sentence handed down, a time to exalt the achievements of some while condemning others to perpetual underachievement. If reports are done right, this absolutely should not be the case, but there needs to be a shared understanding as to the reason for producing reports and the content therein.


A report is a snapshot of a pupil’s progress. Progress is continuous, so the report is really just the teacher’s best attempt at representing a fleeting moment in that child’s journey at school. The truth is that by the time the report is in your hands, it is already out of date as your child will have moved on in their learning to cover things not mentioned in the comments and towards achieving the targets that the class teacher has brought to your attention. Reports are a school’s way of condensing the myriad forms of summative and formative assessment into an easily digestible overview (summative assessments are basically tests, anything from spelling tests to end of year assessments, while formative assessment is most everything else that a teacher does: marking, questioning, tracking progress, setting and reviewing targets, differentiating lessons etc. etc.) Reports are a summary of all the work that teachers put into making sure that they have a deep and thorough understanding of your child’s current ability and areas for development.


All this isn’t to say that reports aren’t useful. Your child’s school report should be viewed as a manual to help you understand what needs to come next. It is best used when it is referred back to in a month’s time, in two months, at the end of the year, so that you can reflect on what your child has achieved in that time, which targets they have met and which are still in progress. By presenting the Core 12 key objectives on our Primary reports, we give you the opportunity to see very clearly your child’s progress with these important skills, and by comparing the Term 1 and end of year reports you will see how much progress has been made between these two milestones. 


It is important to bear in mind that when we publish Term 1 reports, we are only halfway through the school year. WT (working towards) at this point in the year is absolutely to be expected. The majority of Core 12 objectives are revisited a number of times, and further progress is the expectation for all pupils. BE (below expectation) in Term 1 isn’t quite the issue that some think it is either. The fact that many objectives will be covered again means that there is still an opportunity to address the concern and to make progress with the skill, and the fact that your child’s teacher has highlighted this as an area for development means that it will be high on their list of priorities for supporting them.


It’s in the comments, however, where the real report lies. It’s easy to be sidetracked by grades and results, but they only tell a very narrow side of the story. The Core 12, for example, are not an exhaustive list of curriculum objectives. Lots of learning takes place that does not touch on these discrete strands. End of year assessments are perhaps the most clear example of this narrow view. The outcome of these tests absolutely, categorically cannot be taken in isolation. Much like the report itself, they are a snapshot of a pupil’s performance on a selection of objectives and under a very specific set of conditions. Looking at all of the various factors that could influence the outcome of a test is a whole other article; suffice to say that, for teachers, the usefulness of one-off tests as a metric for measuring progress pales in comparison to the formative assessment strategies they use all year round.


The comments, then, are where you will find the truth of your child’s progress. It is where the teacher can share their thoughts with you, detail your child’s triumphs and challenges and help you to better understand what they should be doing in order to maximise their progress. It is brilliant when a parent comes to a post-report consultation with questions about the comments - looking for clarification about a technical term, asking for resources to support the pupil with a target or questioning why it might be that their child doesn’t always demonstrate the full extent of their understanding in their written work. What is less helpful is when a conversation that should be about a pupil who “is making superb progress”, who “always puts in a fantastic effort”, and “is very responsive to teacher feedback” gets sidetracked by questions over a grade attached to an objective or two. You can trust a teacher if they tell you that your child is making good progress. This might mean that they are becoming less dependent on adult support, are more freely working with others and sharing their ideas, or have been able to close some gaps in their previous learning. Great progress and receiving AE (achieving expectation) or EE (exceeding expectation) grades across the board are not one and the same. We all learn at different rates and in different ways, and the journey is a marathon, not a sprint.

I hope you are able to join me on Tuesday 30th November at 9am when I will be looking in more depth at our first academic reports of the year and answering your questions about the report writing process, Core 12 objectives and anything else related to Primary assessment. Please check your inbox for the meeting link. I hope to see you then.