Creativity for control freaks

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Reports to parents Part 2

There is always a big worry with reports. They tend to be so specific and detailed that they bear little relation to pupils' own perception of what they can or can't do. One year, I overheard this conversation between a father and his son, who had just handed over his annual report.

"What's the capital of Scotland?"

"Dunno."

"Says here you do. What's a fair test?"

"Dunno."

"Says here you do. Who was Queen Victoria?"

"Dunno."

"Says here you enjoy singing."

"It's boring."

And so it continued. Even if the class teacher had a full set of assessments as evidence, the pupil had no ownership of this knowledge and, consequently, no ownership of the report.

Reflecting on this, I started to get my pupils to do their own report that I include in the same envelope. In recent years, I have come up with a computer version to mirror the school's. In fact, as an unseen pay-off, it has done away with some of the "impersonal" labels that attach themselves to computerised reports. As parents read a report that only their child could have written, they seem to be more willing to trust that my report has also been written specially for their child.

I use a word processing document to which I've added various form fields.

Some of these are multiple choice drop-down menus which allow pupils to select from a range of answers, so they can choose their favourite subject or the class book they most enjoyed reading. This is then followed by a "because..." which needs to be filled in to justify the choice. Next come achievements of which they are most proud or events that seem most memorable.

The most important section is at the end. Here, I give them a challenge to think about their attitude to work during the year and the steps they need to take. It's very simply done, with children scoring their own effort and achievement, and a sentence that explains something they could do next year to raise those scores. If they give themselves top marks, I try not to argue, but ask them to think about what has encouraged them to work that hard and how that could continue.

I have never found that including this report alongside my teacher's report has led to overshadowing or contradiction. On the contrary, it seems to reinforce and complement what I want to say. Pupils have a very different perspective on school life that is highly pertinent to effective evaluation of the year. Perhaps they should write reports on us? More on that next week...

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School in Leicester

Email: primary@tes.co.uk

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