Will Lodge: Reading between the lines of school reports
- Credit: Archant
Superdad Will Lodge considers what we really want to know from school reports.
I have devoted many of my column inches to baby’s continuing development. After all, a good parent ensures their child not only survives, but thrives.
With younger children it is relatively easy to measure development, whether it be walking, crawling, rolling or talking, how many teeth they have, or their weight.
But once they grow a bit older and become small people rather than babies, it can be tougher to keep an eye on their ongoing learning.
Sometimes you get a flash of development which can come as a bit of a shock. This could be the sudden use of a ‘big word’ – even better pronounced just right and in context – or the realisation that your eldest is almost as tall as you.
Of course we rely greatly on teachers to both make sure our children are still heading in the right direction, and to measure their progress on the path to adulthood.
I would say that most of the time, for most of us, we trust our schools to be doing the right thing and so our checks come down to the annual or biannual report.
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Knowing the date these come out can cause a feeling of dread for parents. No matter how well you think your little angels are doing, there is always that lurking fear that when you’re not there they are in fact little monsters.
This year my wife and I were particularly keen to read our eldest’s school report to try and gauge how well he is adapting to life at secondary school.
All school reports now contain assessments of each child’s attainment level with numbered stages sub-divided into letters.
But what does 6a or 4b really mean?
Generally we know can tell how each child is doing in a subject, most usually by how enthusiastic they are about it at home. I think it is a fairly safe assumption that because our son doesn’t respond to basic questions I pose him in French, but does take great delight in showing us the spatula he made, that he prefers DT classes to language lessons.
However our children are doing is alright by us, and thankfully all of our reports were good.
What is far more interesting and potentially heartwarming or heart-wrenching for parents is the social side of things. Does my child enjoy school, are they bullied, and do they at least pay attention in class?
We quickly scan over the attainment guides, briefly matching up their expected end of key stage level with where they are now to make sure it is not horribly off course.
But we linger over comments from teachers, trying to read between the perhaps slightly sanitised lines to gauge whether our kids are kind, polite, and have friends.
Maybe this is because as parents our role is angled towards social and moral development rather than formal education.
However deep down I suspect we just want our children to not be left out – and even avoid our own traumatic childhood experiences.