End-of-year reports should be a learning conversation

24th June 2016 at 00:00

In common with many other primary schools, we send home end-of-year reports about all our children at this time of year. The written report is a method of capturing progress, and one of many ways in which we seek to inform families about their children’s learning.

For many years, we have taken this opportunity to embrace a meaningful way of helping children to review their own learning and to reflect on their challenges, next steps and successes. We try to be a listening school and, as such, value engaging children in dialogue that supports their thinking, thereby building metacognitive capacity.

Our children are at the heart of report-writing. We have a shared format saved on our school server and each child types their own report on a laptop. This may take several lessons, but gives every child the responsibility of assessing their learning and the opportunity to celebrate achievements across the curriculum. Children even choose and upload images from our photo files and class blogs.

This process is very different from asking pupils to prepare a summary page at the end of a report owned and written by the teacher. Instead, our children know that their reflections about each subject area will be carefully studied and built on by their teacher through written dialogue. At the end of each report, I add a summative, congratulatory comment and the document is then proudly taken home for additional notes to be added by the family.

Our curriculum aims to make learning irresistible. Within lessons, from their earliest days in school, children are encouraged to explain their thinking. We expect them to make decisions that will support their next steps in learning, and our ultimate aim is to sustain and build intrinsic motivation to learn. We are dedicated to teaching in a manner that refuses to set a ceiling on any child or to unwittingly limit their capacity to learn. Valuing the child’s voice and perspective is fundamental to our school ethos of learning without limits.

In the same way that we offer learning review meetings instead of traditional parents’ consultations, our end-of-year reports emphasise that the greatest resource families have for understanding their child’s progress and attainment is, in fact, their child. Dialogue that supports continuous wonder and excitement about all areas of the curriculum provides the opportunity to support a child both at home and in school.

An extract from a Year 6 report illustrates just how informative self-assessment can be: “I’m so happy with my times tables now because last time when I had my learning review I said I don’t know my 6,7,8 and 12 times tables but now, I know all of my times tables. Ellie taught me my 7 times table one day at break time and then I carried on learning them. Now I am really confident.

“I am secure with the mean, median, mode and range. I use ratio for a lot of things. I am confident with square numbers and I love going over them.”

At the end of the foundation stage, and in Year 1, Year 2 and Year 6, the end-of-year reports include the outcomes of statutory assessments. However, although we are very proud of our children’s achievements, we recognise that these outcomes only represent a fraction of what may have been achieved across the full breadth of the primary curriculum.

Reports that are presented as high-quality, illustrated learning conversations between children and teachers embody an approach that seeks the highest ambition for every learner without reducing this to simplistic grades or levels.

Dame Alison Peacock is executive headteacher of the Wroxham School in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, and a government adviser

@alisonmpeacock

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