Lengthy School Reports Are ‘Burdensome’ for Teachers and Should Move to Shorter Versions, Panel Concludes

Lengthy School Reports Are ‘Burdensome’ for Teachers and Should Move to Shorter Versions, Panel Concludes

Lengthy school reports are “incredibly burdensome” for teachers and should be replaced with shorter versions, a Government advisory panel has 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 – currently used by some schools to flag up a child’s absence.

Mr Hinds’s department has now 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 prompting anger among parents. In recent years school reports have been criticised by both parents and some teachers for being “impersonal” and even “robotic”.

The review by the government’s Teacher Workload Advisory Group, which comprises several headteachers as well as Whitehall and trade union officials, recognised that parents’ involvement with their children’s education is “consistently associated with better pupil performance.”

But it pointed out that the legal duty on schools is simply to “report to parents and carers on general progress, the brief particulars of achievements … how to arrange discussions about the report, the attendance record, and grade[s]” The review adds: “Some schools have, however, adopted practices that are incredibly burdensome for teachers, which go beyond their statutory duties, without proven benefits for pupils.

“Lengthy written reports to parents and carers are usually burdensome for teachers to produce, and there is insufficient evidence to suggest that this is 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 panel, chaired by Becky Allen, director of University College London’s Centre for Education Improvement Science, continued: “School and trust leaders should review their approach to producing the annual written report, to inform parents and carers of their child’s performance and behaviour at school in a way that is manageable for teachers.”

The 18-strong panel also included four senior civil servants, including the education director of Ofsted, the regulator, five headteachers, and the heads of the  Association of School and College Leaders and  National Association of Head Teachers.

The report cites the network of Ark academies as an example of institutions that have relieved pressure on teachers by sending automatic notifications to parents whose children are absent from school, including about the consequences of their absence.

“In one school, this replaced a paper-based process requiring input of five members of staff which took the equivalent of an entire school day to complete,” the report states.

However, while the consultants often hear “complaints about computer generated school reports and ‘cut and paste’ jobs”, well-written reports could “give a clear indication of a pupil’s capability and application in just a few sentences”, she added.