For many teachers, the month of May means writing student reports. It can feel like a never-ending task, but Langley School in Norfolk has attempted to make things easier for teachers while improving reports for parents and students. Frank Butt, deputy headteacher, tells us how.
To help parents to support their children’s learning from home, the reports they receive need to say more than "could do better". Parents need to know what their child can do to achieve more. We felt the old-style paper reports were often focused too heavily on looking back so we did away with them and started exploring digital communication. As is so often the case, embracing technology has cleared the way for a fresh approach. Here’s how we did it:
1. A sharper focus
Electronic reporting has allowed us to set parameters that have dramatically increased the clarity of our reports. We now restrict each teacher’s entry to just 200 characters, for example. By compelling teachers to think carefully about what they want to say, the information is distilled into the key points that students and parents need to know.
2. Looking ahead
Each report entry includes an effort-based target for the forthcoming term. Being able to quickly find a student’s attainment data in our computer system along with a red, amber and green traffic light (relating to their targets), teachers can include specific points about how to boost progress. A child who is finding maths difficult may be encouraged to attend extra sessions, for example, or someone with a particular flair for English may be directed towards some more challenging reading.
We also set behaviour targets. For example, if a child struggles with punctuality, one of their targets might be to arrive at each class in time for registration. I’ve spoken to some of the students about the new reports and they tell me that they have a much better understanding of what is expected of them now.
3. Positive messages
We’ve tweaked the language we use in reports to counter the stereotype of bland comments that could apply to any student. Now we address students directly in their report, and have found this to be a simple yet effective way to encourage our students to take responsibility for their own progress – and many are responding positively to this.
We also urge our teachers to look forward rather than backward. As well as a target, each entry must include a positive comment on the child’s progress, because being recognised for achievement is a powerful motivating force in encouraging that child to try harder. It’s also a great way to involve parents in celebrating their child’s success.
4. Streamlined process
We now have a much more streamlined process of writing and reviewing reports. Teachers submit their entries, which are reviewed on the computer system, then tutors and heads of year add their comments before sending them to parents. It’s a lot more efficient than printing several drafts and collating and distributing paper copies. It lightens the load for our administrative team as well as saving on cost and being more friendly for the environment.