Back to Basics (5) – Report Writing

By Jo Cavanagh

reports 1It is fast approaching that time of year which many teachers dread – the report writing season. Before sitting down to write this article, I thought back to my own experience of receiving reports whilst at school. I was relatively hard working and never dreaded what my teachers had written about me, but I do remember often feeling disappointed when reading my reports. In some subject, statement banks were often used and I never felt that the comments really described my performance in that subject and the hard work I had put in. On chatting with friends about their reports, I remember being horrified that we had exactly the same comments, which often left me feeling that the teacher didn’t really know me and that my effort had gone unrecognised. As a teacher I think that this is fundamentally the most important thing when writing a report- it must be personalised to each particular student.

At Beaumont the leadership team and heads of year are tasked with reading whole year groups’ reports, so I thought I would ask them for their top tips on report writing.reports 2

Their responses are below. Happy writing.

Paul De Kort (Head of Sixth Form): “Good reports are specific about what the student needs to do to  improve whether that be, for example, “expand their explanations”, “take appropriate time with their homework” or “focus in class activities.” They are positive but realistic – “greater X (from student) should allow her access to a higher grade by the end of the year.” They should be aware of the passage of time ie refer to things that need to/will happen after the report is published.”

Laura Hawkins (Assistant Head): “You need a real sense that the teacher knows the student. Honesty – don’t fear the L (less than expected). Excellent should only be reserved for those that are truly excellent. Useful advice on how to improve, as well as lots of praise when deserved.”

Elena Dundjerovic (Head of Year 9): “Try to focus on their skills and the progress that they have made and give them a target.”

Liz Hitch (Headteacher): “Make sure you do not write them too specifically in ‘real time’ – it takes at least 2 weeks for a report to go out once written, so don’t refer to things coming up within a short time period. It is better to write less than waffle when you don’t know the student too well (eg in year 7).”

Danny Sievewright (Head of Year 11): “I would suggest, where appropriate, a balance of positive and areas for improvement. Also making ensure that the comment matches up with the effort grades for that student. For an end of key stage report, something that encapsulates their overall performance – particularly if the student has made particular improvements across a year. Dare I also suggest using the spellchecker, reading over and checking grammar – from a staff well-being point of view, that is really important as it makes life much easier for those checking them and would cut down the amount of reports that a teacher has to re-do.”

Below is a guidance document which we refer to at Beaumont to try and keep the consistency of writing across the various subjects on a report.

Reports Style Guide