It’s pretty vital to understand my past life in secondary education to understand the need for this post. Before my current role I was a Head of Department for a 6 form entry secondary school with around 180 pupils per year group. The department I headed was Religious Studies and I taught pretty much the entire school, though I did have some non-specialists that also taught and a full time cover teacher who was geography trained. One year, last minute, the SLT decided we needed end-of-year examinations and that these results would make the bulk of the last set of reports. There would be two weeks of exams, one week and then the next week reports were due. I had a meeting planned with my line manager and I asked him to come to my room (instead of his office where the meeting was meant to be) where I had piled around 15 piles of 30 books all ready for me to mark in a one week turn around and then put on full written reports for each one (many being GCSE or essay style answers). He saw my point pretty quickly but little was to be done at such a late point. So I will admit….I used a few Ctrl+C comments that year.
I wasn’t happy. I moved to try and avoid this. Was it SLT? Partly, but I don’t blame them…sometimes it’s hard to see all the problems one decision can make and so I hope I aided this for future years. I didn’t moan, just made it clear what some issues were for teachers of subjects like mine.
I now don’t have to use the Ctrl+C move but I still wonder if our reports are where they need to be. Even now when I read my individual feedback I find my comments very familiar. Why? It can be hard to get across a point with no ability to give social cues as you would when you are talking, so I have to be careful that my comments are clear and to the point.
It might be a bit controversial and I am not sure people will like it at first but….how about we scrap written reports?
Regular afternoons where parents can drop in and see pupils working, ask questions of the teacher and see what needs to progress first hand in the pupils work. When I say regular I mean regular (each month). We are expecting pupils to make progress and I think parents take a big part in this, if they can see the gaps they can help them. Pupils books can be laid out and pupils themselves can take them through. Parents can speak face to face with staff member. It’s done in school time so staff have less pressure points in the year (parents can read book feedback that would be done anyone and would be re-written for a report), it’s done often so parents don’t have to come to all (maybe a minimum of 2 or 3), it’s more meaningful.
Also then there can be one/two after school parents evening where other issues of a more private nature can be discussed.
- Less pressure points in the year when reports need to be done for teachers.
- More parent engagement.
- Teachers are more accountable for good written feedback in books when needed (or maybe just for assessments).
- Pupils must know how to progress to be able to explain to parents on that afternoon (maybe even parents write it down and that becomes the report!?).
Issues and possible solutions –
- Issues with data tracking? Grades/Expected standards could still be entered and monitored. Comments still on exam scripts.
- Parent involvement? This is always going to be an issue…I am a teacher and a parent BUT…they’re my children and when I need time off I ask. Sometimes I can and sometimes I cannot…I have to make it work. I think more effort needs to be done as a society for this and a good place to start is more people need to start asking for more time off for these events. It could always be that those with genuine reasons can be given alternative provisions (can of worms…I know!).
I just think we owe our pupils, parents and staff more than we are currently getting. A genuine face to face involvement from all who are involved. Everyone is working so hard…how about a celebration every term to show it…maybe it even turns into a bit of a party for everyone!