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Put - and keep - the records straight

I love teaching for three main reasons: the calling, the children and the subject. At times, though, it feels like there is an inordinate amount of record-keeping and administration work connected with each child in each class and not enough hours to deal with it all.

Don't get me wrong: I see the need for much of it and I certainly appreciate a sense of order (pen lids securely fastened, desks tidied at the end of every day) but still, if truth be told, my idea of fun record-keeping is looking out my old Abba LPs and giving them a dust once in a while. Paperwork is about as appealing to me as wading through piranha-infested waters.

You will know only too well what I'm talking about: 5-14 levels, homework, assessment results, national test scores, not to mention the information that the headteacher, Scottish Qualifications Authority or Scottish Executive might need. You aren't always given a lot of time to collate this material and that is why it is important to have good records on your pupils before you are asked for them.

If you are lucky, you will have been supported in how to deal with the administrative side of the job already. Indeed, many schools and individual departments have developed pro forma materials to save weary teachers from reinventing the wheel.

Some principal teachers like to carry out spot-checks to see how you are getting on with filling out record sheets, marks books and the like and that's great (and one sure way of making sure you keep yourself organised). However, you may just be trusted to get on with your paper work by yourself and if that is the case then I have a few tips.

Don't let administration work pile up. Recording, particularly of grades and general progress, should be used to inform your planning, both in terms of support for your pupils and in lesson preparation. Mark jotters with your marks book open in front of you so that you can enter scores and comments as you go along.

Ask colleagues to show you how they do things. It is helpful to see how more experienced colleagues make the most of their marks books and manage to display information in the most user-friendly of ways.

Keep it simple. Decide what you are assessing beforehand, prepare the pupils for that and then make that the focus of your recording. Don't get sidetracked.

Involve the children. They are as able to put the name of the test and the score in a box as you are. This kind of process can actually help your pupils take more responsibility for their learning, especially if done hand in hand with target-setting.

Prioritise. Some days, weeks, even terms may be busier than others, so plan ahead. If you have reports coming up, then make a big effort to get your records up-to-date in advance as this will make report cards much easier to write. However, there will be times when you will be swamped doing other things, so minimise the paper work accordingly.

My final piece of advice is to try to keep your perspective and have a life! The best teachers are the ones who make time to enjoy themselves, relax and have fun outside the classroom.

This is a very busy time of year in schools so keep your chin up, remember all your victories so far and don't forget to appreciate "the present, smiling moment" (like listening to "Dancing Queen" at full volume while you're in the bath).

Diane Allison teaches in Midlothian and is author of The Year of Living Dangerously: A Survivial Guide for Probationer Teachers (City of Edinburgh Council, pound;4.99)

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