School reports and their importance for learners and parents

It is that time of the year again, almost the end of the summer term, and, inevitably, whatever school that your child is attending will present an end of year school report for your child.

The way that a school report is prepared and presented to parents is entirely dependent on the individual school. However, certain parameters and information should always be included, according to the child’s age and system of education. These should include an overview of the school curriculum, comments on progress, details of attendance, and arrangements made for discussing the report.

As the Head of an international school, I believe that it is very important that a school report, whether prepared thrice a year as at our school, or once a year, is a valuable, quantifiable and meaningful document for all of those involved – the learner, parents and the school.

It is important that the assessment does not merely contain tick sheets and computer-generated data bank comments. All parties should be able to understand, reflect upon, and use the report to be able to make ongoing and positive progress.

Of course, end of year reports will vary in their structure and content, depending on the age of the child.

All schools have an obligation to report to parents in a clear and concise manner. How often an international school sends a report is subjective, although outstanding schools will prepare and send one every term, and a further detailed end of year report.

Reports/evaluations are required from the day that a child enters education. This can begin at preschool age in the United Kingdom and in the majority of international and Portuguese schools.

There is a very well structured and fully documented approach for presenting information about children from birth to age five. The worldwide recognised and much-used Early Years Foundation Stage sets a series of age-related standards. All schools and early years providers must follow the EYFS, including preschools, nurseries and school reception classes.

The EYFS will include all of the individual elements involved in the child’s learning process. This is a unique document, whereby children are assessed against age-specific progress indicators.

As children progress into Primary School, reports should cover details of achievements in all subjects and activities that form part of the school curriculum.  General progress specific to the individual child should be referenced, and information as to when a teacher/parent meeting can be arranged should be given to discuss the report in detail.

Normally, Primary reports include an indication of a child’s achievements, which can be in the form of different criteria, and not normally graded. Words such as ‘Aspiring’, ‘Good’, ‘High’ and ‘Outstanding’ are normally used to indicate level of progress, rather than a grade or number.

As students move into Secondary School and begin to follow the pathway that will lead them to formal qualifications, it is more usual, and rational, for students to be graded on a quantifiable standard scale. This will show end of year achievements as a grade or number, typically A-U or 9-1. Effort grades are also normally given, alongside a comment for each subject area.

All schools are required to keep a copy of all of their students’ reports on record for future reference.

Personally, I believe that sending home detailed and carefully constructed reports is extremely valuable for both children and their parents. Reports should be a clear piece of reflection that allows parents to know exactly what their child has achieved, and highlight areas requiring development, so that both teachers and parents can work together to aid the child’s continued progress.

End of year reports should enable parents and learners to identify the next steps in the learning process and highlight areas that require attention for future progress and development. Of course, they should also highlight achievements in both curriculum and extra-curricular activities. The general comments should attest to the overall character and nature of a child.

Reports should never be negative, judgemental or contain surprises! They should be a clear indication of a learner’s achievements in all areas of schooling over a period of time and used as a reflective tool to plot continued and successful educational development.

No school can work well for children if parents and teachers do not act in partnership reflecting on the best interests of their children.

By Penelope Best, Head of School,
Eupheus International School, Loulé