I read an article in The Guardian over the weekend about school reports. Teachers and parents were criticising the new breed of software generated school reports and I have to admit that it was a bit of an eye opener. I had no idea that such a thing even existed. Apparently, boxes are ticked on a computer program in order to generate the most suitable comment for each pupil and hey presto, there is your end of year report. Sigh.
It all just seems so dishonest, doesn’t it? You would receive your child’s report thinking that you were reading the teacher’s thoughts not the result of some automated system. It just seems such a terrible waste of everybody’s time. There were even cases of wrong names are genders being used meaning that they weren’t even being proof read before being sent home. I don’t know about you but such a silly mistake would make me doubt the whole report.
I do think that reports are important to parents and I know that I would be really upset if I didn’t recognise my own child from what was being said. Personally I have very little interest in statistics and grades, especially as primary school age but I do want to know what kind of year they have had and how they have progressed. I don’t want some tick box excuse for a report.
Personally I have to say that this has not been my experience at all. Our high school don’t actually send out end of year reports, they prefer to send home reports throughout the year that are closely followed by a parents evening. The reports they send home are really very basic but actually I like them that way. They show basic details of grades and targets then a just a couple of lines of comment from each subject teacher. It does the job perfectly well.
Our primary school sends home a much lengthier report that gives a full breakdown of everything from attendance and punctuality, to grades and targets, along with lengthy descriptions of the topics that they have completed. I’m not sure if such a detailed report is needed to be quite honest as we are invited into school frequently to look through the children’s work. In fact being realistic, I am sure that the topic descriptions must be a copy and paste job. But actually the reports don’t read as being generic at all as they are full of lots of personal comments and of course, those are the bits that I am really interested in. A computer program wouldn’t make reference to my nine year old’s sense of humour or my seven year old’s surprising talent of being a fast jogger. I really feel like the teachers writing the reports know my children and that is so so important.
Whichever way you look at it, an awful lot of work must go into producing school reports. I am thankful that we seem to have struck so lucky with the schools that our four children go to. That said, I can’t help but think that over the years, school reports have become unnecessarily complicated and lengthy. When I was at school, I distinctly remember my reports being handwritten and while basic they were perfectly adequate. I think it might be time that we went back to basics. What do you think?