School reports: 7 things to know as a parent
- By Luke Hier  |
- 07 Feb 2020  |
- 6 min read
It’s that time of year again. School reports are coming. At this busy time of year, things can get a little confusing with sports days and summer fairs also on the horizon. Fortunately, we are here to help. In this blog, we capture the key things you need to know when it comes to your child’s school report.
Let’s get started…
1) Delivery date is key
Despite forming a key part of parent interaction with school, particularly for those working full time, it can be difficult to know when exactly the reports will be published. With lots of schools sending reports to home addresses, it is important to know when they are going to be dispatched so that you can monitor your post. If you have recently changed address, make sure the school knows where your new house is!
Most schools will keep you in the loop with the report release date via their website or Twitter feed (if they have one). You may also find it on the most recent newsletter at the bottom of your child’s school bag…
If all else fails, the school office should be able to give you a good idea. They usually come hot off the press around this time of year. The staff in the school office are often the ones that have to print them — so they should know.
If you do visit the school office, it might also be a good idea to ensure they have the address of anybody else who needs access to your child’s report. This can save a lot of time in the long run, helping you to avoid sharing your only copy with a variety of family members.
2) How is your child doing?
The reports will incorporate all areas of the curriculum: from English and Maths to Physical Education. Take a look at all sections — you may discover that your child has a particular interest that you are not yet aware of.
The comments referring to non-core subjects will probably be shorter, but will still contain useful information. Less focused on high pressure targets, these sections may contain nuggets of information on your child’s wider school experience. You might be pleasantly surprised at their prowess across the curriculum.
In addition to these written comments, it is likely that you will be provided with a formal indication of your child’s ability in each area. This will certainly be the case in English and Maths.
3) Progress frameworks can appear daunting: in reality they are not
Until relatively recently, all schools were using National Curriculum levels to track and share pupil progress with parents. You may have only just got your head round them! However, these have now been scrapped, with schools expected to use their own system.
As a result, each school differs in their approach to reporting progress so it is difficult to provide a one size fits all explanation. At the very least, regardless of what system your child’s school is using, it should be clear whether your child is on or off track. Lots of schools are using ‘statements’ in lieu of the old National Curriculum levels that reflect the categories of:
Working below expected level
Working towards expected level
Working within expected level
Working beyond expected level
By the time you get the school report at end of the academic year, your child should be working within the expected level for their year group. Don’t panic if they aren’t — there are a variety of reasons why this may be the case.
If you are unsure, use the report as a basis for discussion with your child’s class teacher. Conversations with the class teacher may also assist in helping you to understand things that won’t immediately be clear from a reading of the report.
Is your child truly happy at school?
Do they get along okay on the playground?
These sorts of questions are not always answered well through school reports.
As a result, there is no substitute for an informal chat with the class teacher.
4) SATs results have changed: keep an eye out
If your child is in Year 6, you will also have the SATs results to contend with.
These are now reported using ‘scaled scores’ instead of the old National Curriculum levels.
Unless you ask, you probably won’t get your child’s actual marks from the papers themselves. Instead, their marks are converted into a ‘scaled score.’ A score of 100 or more means your child has reached expected standard. A score of 99 or less means your child has not met expected standard. The lowest possible scaled score is 80 whilst the highest is 120.
These scaled scores allow for more accurate reporting across years so that a particularly difficult SATs paper doesn’t penalise your child’s results disproportionately.
5) Head teacher comment is worth paying attention to
Most primary school reports will contain a nod from the head teacher or senior school leader. These can vary in length depending on the size of the school (and the time senior leaders have to designate to report writing), but they can be very insightful.
As the head teacher will not have participated in all your child’s lessons, they have the luxury of taking a higher level view of your child’s education. As such, they often focus more on your child’s general character development rather than on their progression in strict academic terms.
They might not tell you anything you don’t already know, but it is good to be aware of what they think. After all, they have overall responsibility for the flourishing of your child’s development.
6) Some phrases should get you thinking
These days, most schools will try to keep the reports as positive as possible. As a result, it can be difficult to fully gauge the severity of any issues that arise. Nonetheless, if you see any sentences like the below, you may need to think of an action plan:
‘too easily distracted’,
‘requires too much supervision’,
‘needs to improve on his/ her respect for others’
Anything along this theme should be acknowledged and will need a follow up conversation with either the teacher, your child or both. It is unlikely that this will be the first time you have heard of such issues, but their presence in the report will further indicate their severity.
7) It’s okay to share the report with your child
If the report has been delivered to your home address, it is unlikely your child has seen any of its contents. The report is primarily written for a parent audience and is not shared with the child in school.
Of course, you should highlight to your child any encouraging comments from their teacher. These comments can have more impact than you think. Children receive feedback all the time, but the school report will stand out in their minds.
However, be careful not to give them cause for overconfidence. It helps to keep them on their toes if you want them to keep on achieving.
In this way, you can use the report to your advantage, focusing on the positives but highlighting those areas that still need improvement.
In the same vein, if the report has lots of points for improvement, you should also share these with your child. When doing this, it is important to think about their motivation by focusing on the fact that they are perhaps not there YET.
Getting a grade of ‘below expectations’ doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is not putting enough effort in. With continued effort and determination, it is possible to change the contents of next year’s report. Emphasise this. Don’t lose any sense of positivity by focusing too heavily on progress indicators.
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