The joys of report writing

It’s common knowledge that teacher around the world find writing reports stressful and challenging. I was not expecting it to be any different here. I was also not expecting that every child in our school gets a report that is two pages long and includes individual comments about the progress of the student in every subject also including the highlights of the academic year. So you can imagine my surprise when I opened the Word document and realised just how much work it would be. Far behind were my days in Finland teaching in Year 1 where I would just choose the suitable option from three step assessment, evaluating each subject as a whole. There were no individual comments, actually not even a possibility to comment because it was all done through a system where you would juts input the numbers.

Reading that many of you will be thinking whether or not that is a good system, and that’s what the Finns started questioning as well. Hence, there has been a change in assessment in Finland with the 2016 curriculum calling for a broader and extensive assessment of children’s progress throughout the year. This would include self-assessment as well as more comprehensive feedback from the teachers.

But the reports here, I presume, are still quite different. Maths and English being the main subjects are assessed on a similar 3-4 step assessment, but the assessment is divided into three: the effort, progress and attainment a child has done in that subject that year. All the other subjects are assessed according to the effort and progress. On top of this assessment you would still write a comment about the child’s work in different subjects as well as name a specific achievement in those subjects.

That’s not all though. The reports at Central start with a pupil voice. The purpose of pupil voice is to get the voice of the student to be heard. It is the self-evaluation that is part of the official report.  In Year 1 it essentially meant that I asked three questions from each one of my children and wrote down what they replied. You can imagine the conversations one would have as a Year 1 teacher.

– So Peter [name changed], what have you enjoyed in Year 1?
– Well that’s’ nice to hear, but is there anything else you could think of that you have enjoyed in school?
– You can’t think of anything else, any subject that you like?
– Building robots.

On his report, I would then write: “Peter has really enjoyed playing and doing practical things at school. He enjoys Design &Technology and especially building things using different materials.” Underneath I would write the teacher comments based on the answers the child gave. The teacher comment is the most elaborative part of the report and the one I ended up spending the most time on. I have to confess that we did also get a whole day off from work to write this reports so I shouldn’t complain. In Finland that is unheard of.

So I gave it a go and wrote one report and sent it to my head teacher to test the waters.

“Generally, for a first report it is good but…” was his reply, which to be honest did not come as a surprise knowing his standards.  And there it was that small little word at the end of the sentence, that made me realise I still had a lot of work to do.

While in Finland you give a number between 4-10 and that’s it, here we really go above and beyond to make the reports personal and that’s exactly what my head teacher encouraged me to do as well. He asked me to really try to capture what that child is like in my class. At the end of the day, that’s what the parents want as well, a peak into their child’s life at school to know how they are doing.

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