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Responsible reporting

I am recovering from the end of term, when everything goes a little mad. All of a sudden it's hot, hot, hot and the children (and adults) lose the plot at the slightest thing. It's the time of summer shows, concerts, sports days, leavers' assemblies, prize-givings and, worst of the lot, report-writing.

Writing reports is hard. There are only so many ways to say that a child is popular, has worked hard, got to grips with the letter P and uses full stops when threatened with being made into sausages. I had a fail-safe technique when I first started teaching. I wrote all reports out by hand, using a fountain pen and my best, biggest handwriting. I handed them in for signing at the last possible moment, safe in the knowledge that, under a deluge of 250 other reports, the boss would let me get away with the odd bit of Tipp-Ex (although not my inability to spell the word "independent").

But reports are word-processed these days, so the urge to copy and paste is strong. What's more, we have to coordinate with other staff so the whole thing takes an age. It won't be long before the newspapers and internet are full of jolly tales of teachers wishing they could tell it how it really is about mummy's little darling. It won't be long before we are all moaning about the hours spent writing words no one will ever read or, if they do, won't understand.

Reports are boring to write and, as a parent, I know that most people don't care. I certainly don't. My children, the younger ones, are still small - they have a long way to go. Sam, my son who has Down's syndrome, is on a different track altogether.

What I really want to know is if my child managed to eat their lunch. Are they working well or are they messing about? Do their teachers like them?

A report shouldn't contain any nasty surprises. If there's a problem, I want to know at the time, not at the end of the year when the chance to sort it out has long gone.

I've taught enough kids and written enough reports to know that there is always something positive to say about a child. They always have a redeeming feature, even if it's just a tidy tray. Write something that shows you know who they are; that shows you see them as a child with quirks and individuality, not as a letter or a number, or a colour on a spreadsheet.

Now Sam is in special school, his reports seem to be written that bit more sensitively - I'm not on the receiving end of his teacher's frustration any more. The blame for his lack of progress or bad behaviour isn't cast in terms of his being "stubborn", or "getting his own way" or "lack of effort".

I'm glad because, to be frank, my life is hard enough as it is. I have to keep my family afloat and, although some people think I need the truth for my own good, I don't need knocking down.

When I get a bad report, I cry. And then I throw it in the bin.

Nancy Gedge is a teacher at Widden Primary School in Gloucester

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