As the Whit Half Term Holiday begins, so does the realisation that most of it will be spent focusing on reporting to parents how their little darlings have learnt, behaved, achieved, disappointed, excelled, shocked…all in all performed in (mostly) one room every weekday for most weeks of the year. Where to start…?
As I have sat and contemplated over the past week on how to tackle this overwhelming but exciting prospect, I’ve realised that this is an almost impossible task, for the following reasons:
The things that I write in these reports are meant to be a reflection of a child’s entire year of learning in school. Ok, we have had two parents evenings and, where necessary, homework diaries to keep them informed up to now anyway so it shouldn’t be totally new news. Yet, this is an end of year report, not just a way to avoid having a Parents Evening in the Summer Term. So one would presume that everything should be covered and we should give an accurate snapshot of the child in school for the year.
However, things change. They are changing even as I sit and tap continuously on this battered, tortured keyboard. A perfect example happened just this week! By Thursday I had already written three reports despite Ofsted being in for a subject specific inspection this week (was feeling very impressed with my productive self). So as the day ended on Thursday and I was in my PPA Time, my teaching assistant popped in to give some news (never a good sign on a Thursday afternoon in my PPA Time). Four boys had been rude to another child in Maths and were being spoken to by the Head of KS2. I guessed three of the boys and said that I would also speak to them, but I could not think who the fourth might have been. When I heard the child’s name I literally dropped my jaw. HIM?! “But he’s been brilliant all year!” I exclaimed. The TA agreed wholeheartedly but assured me it was the case because he was seen and admitted himself he was involved. Not only this, but this child had also deliberately upset another boy. His words: “Yeah, I wanted to upset him.” (This being whilst the other boy was in tears)! I was astonished. Then, I remembered that I had written the report for this boy – and I had written that he was a perfect example of behaviour in and out of the classroom and could be counted on to always do the right thing…So now what? Do I change what I am sending home as a reflection of his whole school year and overlook this deliberate act of emotional maliciousness? Do I mention it as something to work on? This, I think, is one of the problems with report writing, it will be impossible to paint an exact picture of what the child’s year has been like as children do not learn, progress or behave the same way throughout the whole year.
2: Brutual Honesty, Woolly Statements or somewhere In the Middle?
I’m certain that those of us who have written end of year of reports may have wanted to say something like: “Your child simply can’t be bothered, has a detrimental impact on their peers learning, has the amount of respect for adults that I would expect a virus to have and just not a very likeable human being.” Now I would say that I would never make such comments about an actual child even to other members of staff that may feel the same way – but this illustrates a point. I am currently considering a report for a child who (whilst they are nowhere near the description above) has some areas to improve on in their attitude to learning. Surely if it is said to softly that message may not get across with the impact we need it to have. But, of course, if I were to receive a report like the one mentioned above I would wonder why that adult was being allowed to work with children (again, I have not even had those thoughts about an actual child, just to make that clear)!
3: Painting the Big Picture
I’m starting to liken the End of Year Report as a completed paint canvas. When we get the class at the start of the year we have a blank canvas, a new year to experience excellent education and create a masterpiece. We need to give the completed painting to the parents, to be able to say “This is where your child is now.” However, what I’m finding is this is most difficult because a painting is not made instantly, it is made brushstroke by brushstroke. Each little experience followed by another. It is impossible to accurately describe how their child has learnt over the year. We have books and data to help us orientate ourselves with how well they’ve produced an outcome, or done in a particular test, but not the journey itself. One thing I plan on doing to help me with this is to create an easy to access record where I can note down good things children in my class do on a day-to-day basis so when I write the reports at the end of next year I have this to refer back to and mention great things the child has done throughout the year.
These are just a few thoughts I’ve had – I’ve done 3/10 of my reports, so I’m getting along – I now need to try and get more done but make sure it is one they will remember for the right reasons.
How do you make your End of Year Reports memorable? Do you have any ways of making them effective snapshots of your child’s learning in the class?