Long school reports ‘incredibly burdensome’ for teachers
LENGTHY school reports are proving to be “incredibly burdensome” for teachers and should be replaced with shorter versions, government advisers have concluded.
A review commissioned by Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary, found “limited evidence” for the benefits of progress reports that go beyond the “relatively lean” basic requirements imposed on schools.
It also suggested expanding the use of “automatic reporting” to parents, which is used by some schools to flag up a child’s absence.
Mr Hinds’s department has pledged to review national guidance on school reports, suggesting it could be altered to warn teachers against sending long updates to parents and guardians. However, the move risks angering parents.
In recent years, reports have been criticised by both parents and teachers for being “impersonal” and even “robotic”.
The review by the Teacher Workload Advisory Group, which comprises several head teachers alongside Whitehall and trade union officials, recognised that parental involvement was “consistently associated with better pupil performance”.
However, it stated that the legal duty on schools was simply to report to parents “on general progress, the brief particulars of achievements … how to arrange discussions about the report, the attendance record, and grade[s].”
The review added: “Some schools have, however, adopted practices that
are incredibly burdensome for teachers, which go beyond their statutory duties, without proven benefits for pupils.” It said there was “insufficient evidence” to suggest that this was “the best or only way to engage parents and carers in education”.
“Schools should remember that the statutory duties on what schools must report to parents and carers are relatively lean, and that there is limited evidence of impact for producing written reports that go beyond these,” the report stated.
The panel, chaired by Becky Allen, director of University College London’s Centre for Education Improvement Science, said schools should review their reports to inform parents and carers of their child’s performance “in a way that is manageable for teachers.”
The 18-strong panel also included four senior civil servants, including the education director of Ofsted, five head teachers, and the heads of the Association of School and College Leaders and National Association of Head Teachers. The report cited the network of Ark academies as an example of institutions that have relieved pressure on teachers by sending automatic notifications to parents whose children were absent.
It said: “In one school, this replaced a paper-based process requiring input of
‘The statutory duties on what schools must report to parents and carers are relatively lean’
five members of staff which took the equivalent of an entire school day.”
Bernadette John, the director of the Good Schools Guide, said that while the education consultants often heard “complaints about computer generated school reports and ‘cut and paste’ jobs”, a well-written school report could “give a clear indication of a pupil’s capability and application in just a few sentences”.