Five ways to reduce your pupil report workload

Posted by Ewa Jozefkowicz on Jul 2, 2019 10:29:41 AM


The end of the school year will soon be upon us and you are probably already thinking about report writing. Below, we have compiled some handy examples of time-saving report-writing strategies from schools around the country, alongside tips on how to improve your reporting processes.

Reduce written comments
  • Get rid of subject-specific written comments

Instead of writing detailed comments for every subject, ask teachers to provide grades for behaviour, classwork, homework and assessments per subject and/or a target for improvement. Class teachers in primary and form tutors in secondary are then responsible for writing general comments about the pupil, based on these grades, verbal feedback from other staff members or subject teachers, and their own observations.

  • Use red, amber and green (RAG) colour codes

Use colour codes to save time and make it easy for parents to understand their child's progress in different areas at a glance.

  • Provide general guidance

Give the pupil's individual grades, but instead of writing personalised comments, provide parents with short, generalised explanations of what grades mean to help them understand whether their child is working within, below or beyond the expected level of attainment. Click here to see an example (Adobe pdf file) from Barr Beacon School in Walsall.

Send out a report shortly before a parents' evening, so parents have a chance to ask any questions about the report in person.

Follow a formula
  • Divide the group

Split the group into high attainers, those with room for improvement, and low attainers. Further sub-divide each of these categories into pupils who put a lot of effort into their work and others who don't, making 6 sets in total. Write a sample report for each 'set', and then adapt this with a line or 2 of personal comments for each pupil, or with curriculum-specific content if writing across multiple year groups or schemes of work.

  • Use previous years' reports to make your own templates

There will most likely be similar students and similar themes from year to year that you can adapt into a template, as well as curriculum-specific phrases if your course hasn't changed.

  • Use a numerical scale

Use numerical scales for concepts such as 'attitude to learning' and 'attitude to homework', accompanied by short descriptors for each number to help parents understand their child's progress in each area.

  • Summarise strengths, weaknesses, attainment and progress

Writing 1 sentence for each point of the SWAP (strengths, weaknesses, attainment, progress) method will keep your answers focused on what's important, structure your thinking, and help save time.

Relax marking requirements at report-writing time
  • Re-evaluate any requirements your school has around planning and/or marking during the second half of the summer term, to allow teachers more time for report writing
  • Consider pooling resources across departments or year groups to ease the planning burden, or adopting peer-assessment techniques or live marking in lessons
  • Consider extending any time-saving marking or planning strategies you adopt during this period across the whole year, to help with teachers' workload more generally
Use comment banks wisely

Stock phrases and comment banks get a bad reputation, but if used critically, and balanced with personal comments, they save teachers from writing the same thing in multiple ways for different students. Many teachers already cut and paste phrases about course content, but you can also use comment banks for general remarks on behaviour and attitudes to learning.

Draft your own school - and/or subject-specific comment bank

Work with colleagues to draft your own whole-school and/or subject-specific comment bank to make reports more personalised to your context without having to use a third-party resource. This may be time-consuming in the short term, but can be used for many years and by many members of staff to save time in the future.

Remember to check for students' names and gender-specific pronouns when using a comment bank.

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Topics: school, learning, progress, reports