Report Writing

It has been a week of reports. Year 11 and Year 13 will receive their reports on mocks today, many Senior School pupils had their interim assessments and we as a school have been inspected. We will be given the report on that in about six weeks or so.

So to start, a little quiz. Can you match the following reports to the correct person?

“He will never amount to anything.”

“A quiet student who needs to stop playing with his motorcycles and learn that music will not make him a livable wage.”

“He will study law, and we have no doubt that he will make a name for himself.

“A persistent muddler. Vocabulary negligible, sentences malconstructed. He reminds me of a camel.”

Your choices: David Bowie, Albert Einstein, Roald Dahl, Fidel Castro. (Answers at end of article)

Reports written about pupils can be, it seems, horribly inaccurate.

Over the course of my time in education I’ve read (and written) thousands of reports and they have changed. The reports written at the start of my career tended to be less rooted in evidence and were usually reflective of an opinion. Often a fairly sarcastic one. Modern reports are a little more data driven. Old ones tended to be a little more amusing, newer ones more informative. Some may mourn the passing of reports such as those written above, but I suspect the ones that we write today are more useful. Of course many schools finish the academic year with a report and over time many involved in education have asked for more information during the course of the year and thus it is not uncommon for interim or other reports to be generated.

There is perhaps a danger of both parents and pupils waiting for the report. Recent educational research suggests that the most successful pupils know where they stand in terms of their learning as they progress through the course of a year. They work consistently to address areas of weakness and they polish the areas of strength. They know how they learn and they know what they need to do to get better. This sort of understanding comes from careful thought about the comments written on school work and a pupil’s reaction to them. If you want to know how a pupil is doing then the exercise book is as good a place as any to start. If the pupil wants to improve their grades or simply learn more then they are well served by looking in the same place.

Perhaps the same is true of school inspection reports. The inspectors do not visit us very often. This week has seen us attempt in some ways to show all we do in a year in the space of a week. I’d argue that if you really want to see what we are all about and how we live our school values a look over an archive of newsletters or our Twitter feed gives a clear idea of what we are doing and how we are doing it. I know that the inspectors have seen many excellent things and they will leave us with constructive suggestions as to how we might improve because no school is perfect. There is always something that can be done to improve. That is a good thing for life would be very boring if there was nothing much to do.

(Quotes in order: Albert Einstein, David Bowie, Fidel Castro, Roald Dahl)

Nicholas Hammond