Whether primary or secondary, report-writing can seem enormous. It is, however, a simply critical task to get right because for many parents it is the only communication they get about their child’s progress outside of parents evenings. The school report is a significant part of your school’s brand as caregiver and educator, so it must be personal and accurate.
Naturally, it would be quite an (unlikely) achievement if you could write all your reports from scratch in one day however you can get very close if you have all your content collated over the year and prepared in advance.
A report should never contain a surprise. If you have had any issue with a child, their parents should know about it from your after-school meetings or phone calls. This way, reports will always be positive as the student is working towards a goal.
Here are a few ideas to make the task easier:
Collect quick notes on a class list all year
The earlier in the year you can start this, the more of a favour you will be doing yourself.
Even if you’re due to write reports next week, you still have time for quick notes. The aim is to avoid having to refer to piles of exercise books when writing your reports, but to still have specific points with examples. Choose a day to travel round the room and make a note for each child’s work. A dated post-it note will do. For example, your note “Objective exceeded: use of levers, independently glued, helped Jack drill” will be worth its weight in gold a term later.
Use show and tell and class share notes
Regardless of age, your pastoral tutor group or class need time to share achievements and interests. When they do, note who did and what they celebrated. This will also help you identify and encourage any quiet ones.
Keep any 'know your children' activities
Completing ‘All about me’ cards at the start of term or before parents evenings are fun ways for children to share with you their love of cats or painting that they don’t always have the luxury to chat about as often as you’d like in a class of 34.
Decide on an easy paragraph structure for each subject and revert to it whenever you’re stuck. Will you start with effort, then sandwich a development point between two positives?
Sharing in multi-form entry schools
Yes, reports should be personal but you don’t need four teachers composing a summary of the Tudors project, so share responsibilities. If you have a specialist or peripatetic coach for a subject, ask for their notes early and help them with a class list.
Stick to school policy
Some schools want you to include ‘all the nitty gritty’, in which “Sam finds it difficult to wait for an appropriate time to share her thoughts with the class,” whereas other Heads demand a positive spin always, where “Sam makes enthusiastic verbal contributions throughout the lesson” so find out in advance.
Parents look at the personal comment first
Regardless of how you feel, this must be kept positive. Consider the child’s approach to learning, friendships, contribution to the class, successes, attitude to challenge, extra-curricular activities and strongest subjects for effort before making any suggestion of where to channel their efforts next year. Remember to finish with a congratulatory comment for their effort this year.
Look at previous examples
If old reports aren’t saved on your shared drive or intranet – start the habit this year. It won’t take you ten minutes to take the children’s names off then save them. This good practice will certainly help fellow teachers and NQTs, not to mention you next year.
Finally... don't panic
Report writing can be terrifying the first time but it gets easier every year!
About the author
Katie Newell BA(Hons) PGCE is an ex-primary school teacher, Head of Maths, Head of Year five and languages specialist. Katie qualified in Psychology at Liverpool then specialised in Primary Languages for her PGCE at Reading. Before teaching, Katie was a financial commentator and is now the Content Manager for eteach.com and fejobs.com. Katie feels passionately that teachers are the unsung heroes of society; that opening minds to creative timetabling could revolutionise keeping women in teaching, and that a total change to pupil feedback is the key to solving the work life balance issue for the best job in the world.