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Reporting to parents in the secondary school

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Started by Martin Butts 15 Feb 2015 11:37am () Replies (11)

Hi everyone,

We are currently reviewing the way we report to parents in years 7-13. Here are some of the questions we have asked:

Impact on learning: How does reporting sit alongside assessment and feedback?

Immediacy & Relevance: What does/might reporting to parents look like in a digital environment (parent portal, email, GAFE)? How might these resources transform the way we report?

The student: What place does the student have in reporting to parents?

Timing: Should reporting continue to occur at a common time for all, or at a time most relevant to the learning happening in each subject?

In person: How might face-to-face reporting best complement other means?

Paper-based: Is there still a place for hard copy reporting?


I'd be interested to find out what changes other schools are making!





  • Nathaniel Louwrens (View all users posts) 17 Feb 2015 12:55pm ()

    Hi Martin

    These are all good questions that I would also be interesting in reading responses to. I've thought for a while that there must be a better way (of course some schools probably already have a better way!). 

    I've thought if having regular contact with parents/whānau that paper reporting shouldn't be necessary. Of course this is not always possible all of the time and some families are easier to connect with than others. I do think that if you've got a regular method of communication through a parents portal or similar then what added value would a paper report have?



  • Kelly Faulkner (View all users posts) 17 Feb 2015 1:41pm ()

    our school does the traditional:

    term 1 report (at week 6)

    end of term 2 (hostel), start of term 3 report

    year-end report (that is too late for exams)

    i don't think these are particularly helpful; by week 6 i don't have much to say (while i've done a lot of benchmark assessment, i don't have all 156 names down yet...), and i find the start of term 3 too late! we can't say anything about exams/exam prep in the final report, so those are a complete waste of time imvho.

    instead, i send home a letter to all my students on the first day of my class(es). it lays out the class for the year - standards, requirements, expectations. at the bottom is a tear-off slip for parents to tick if they want to be on my weekly homework email list (and a couple other options). students and parents must sign receipt, and it is their first homework assignment to return to me - those who don't, i post a separate letter home.

    i then send a weekly email on monday mornings (or the previous friday afternoon if i'm being ambitious) with a note on what we're working on that week, what the homework is, and any relevant due dates. it also gives me instant access to their email - something kamar appears to be incapable of doing.

    i put the email addresses into a group and send it bcc. it's generally 3 emails a week depending on what levels i'm teaching, with the odd reply to any parent responses.

    there may be other ways to do this, but i don't really want to deal with setting up and updating a blog constantly for 5-6 different classes; i can barely keep up with my own! the weekly email covers what's relevant right then, gives parents an opportunity to "really know" what's happening, and they can reply with any questions. i've had excellent feedback from parents (and many scowls from other teachers, sadly) about the communication, so i'm sticking with it (and yes, still write up the time-poor and not very helpful reports).

    we use kamar, and i'm interested in seeing how the parent part of the portal is being expanded at the kamar conference in may. with parental access, do they even need official reports? or is it just becoming an outdated tradition?

    enough about that. i do think reporting needs to change, dramatically. as a parent, i hated receiving reports from high school. they all said the same thing: xxx is a lovely girl, who has a polite and quiet nature..." no kidding - i'm raising her! what is she doing in class? how can i help her? has she had any successes we can celebrate? those are the things i wanted to know from a parent's perspective. from my teacher's desk, i want to be able to tell parents what their sons have completed, what they've done well in, and where they need specific improvement - and how they can do that. i want parents to be hand and hand with the classroom teacher, so that between the three of us - school, home, student - the students have the best chance of success. i want home to be informed enough to work in partnership. 

    that said, you may not be surprised at the forms i get back where no options have been ticked and no email/mobile number have been provided from parents :( makes me sad sometimes.


  • Steve Conroy (View all users posts) 17 Feb 2015 10:21pm ()

    It has been really interesting reading the thoughts presented.

    I have been at the same school for a while and was frustrated at the inefficiency of the reliance on the paper-based reporting system. Especially in my Deaning role, it was very time-consuming to read 500 reports that were grammatically well written, but were often written at a level of formality that may have been not fully understandable for a number of parents. 

    Other frustrations were: Time taken for the process to be completed (up to 5 weeks), limited impact on learning, inability of the parents or student to engage with the written comment (teacher TELLS the family what they think), and quite separate from what teachers are actually doing (like Kelly, many teachers at our school are emailing frequently (or calling) in regard to programs, homework, stationery requirements, good and challenging behaviour).

    I wanted to see how other schools were connecting with whanau so visited 6 local secondary schools. All of them were bringing families in to talk about their child's progress in learning conferences in one form or another. However, I was surprised that they all still reported in written form to parents in a similar manner to my school.  

    I encouraged our school to look at different solutions; and am happy that we have made changes.

    1. We are introducing learning conferences; twice a year

    2. Report type comments are added to Kamar throughout the term (at least once before week 7 is required) and seen through the parent portal by parents; and these have replaced the formal written reports

    3. We have a tick-box written report to parents before the learning conferences take place.

    I have just become the parent of a College aged student (Year 9 at same College!) and I think the timely nature of the reporting process is something I will appreciate.


    As an aside, it is very illuminating to one's thinking when your child begins College. You are more able to empathise with students' issues when the same problem could affect your own child: 

    what would I want to happen if my son was bullied by that student .....what would I want to happen if my son's class was constantly disrupted by poor behaviour .... what would I want to happen if my son made a mistake at school and was feeling very shamed .... what would I think if the teaching in my son's class was not at an appropriate level ....

    It does give the ability to be more emphatic to all the students when you are able to experience their perspective and that of their parents in a closer light. 

    Have an enjoyable rest of the week


  • Martin Butts (View all users posts) 18 Feb 2015 9:35am ()

    Thanks Nathaniel, Kelly and Steve for your comments. I think the discussion about the time it takes to put together a traditional paper-based report is an interesting one. When we can almost instantly communicate with parents via email, or the parent portal, the conventional school report does seem redundant.

    The comments about the expected formality associated with reports is an interesting one. We spend a lot of time proofing and polishing, as I guess when you think of the term 'report' in it's broadest sense, we are trying to give a clear and thorough assessment with a degree of perspective. The immediacy of digital communication allows for more on-going discussion about the learning as it occurs and so there is more potential to work in partnership with parents. On this front, how is your communication with parents different to feedback you give to the students?

    We have thought about asking students to lead 'Parent/Teacher interviews'. This is possibly the norm in primary schools, but not in secondary. If anyone is doing this at secondary level I'd love to find out how it works.


  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 18 Feb 2015 9:57am ()

    Interesting perspective  about formality Martin. smiley Maybe in a world of social networking and digital tools, our communication skills are shifting - becoming more authentic, accessible and less formal perhaps?

    In terms of matching needs between home and school and visa versa, this little booklet might have some interesting facets to explore >>>

    Effective teaching bookletERO has published some booklets to help parents ask questions at school about the learning and wellbeing of their child. The most recent booklet, Effective Teaching - What's happening in my child's classroomfocuses on effective teaching, and includes questions parents can use when discussing their child’s progress with the school. It is also designed so that, "...teachers may also find the questions useful to reflect on their practice."

    This booklet certainly provides a lot of in-depth questions, inviting some very rich dialogue between teachers, as well as parents/teachers. 

    How might we provide evidence of effective teaching and learning using a range of technologies, so that parents/whānau can get a window on the world of their child's learning - anytime, anyhow, anywhere?

    More from ERO @  Asking the right questions at school.

    See original post here >>>

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 18 Feb 2015 9:46am ()

    This makes for a very interesting read, thank you Martin for starting this (good timing too) and Nathaniel, Kelly and Steve for sharing your experiences and wishlists.

    This year I get regular class emails from my son's teachers too Kelly and as a parent it is so encouraging to see how we can maintain the partnership between home and school. The emails are a handy reminder to busy parents about systems and strategies we can implement at home to support homework and ultimately schoolwork.

    My worst-case scenario would be finding out that my child has some concerns or special learning needs - too late, because the information only came via set reporting timeframes (EG: end of the year). 

    Martin, you might be interested in other related conversations in this VLN thread, Using ICT in reporting processes. This includes references to other VLN threads and school stories as well as:

    Here's a great post from Megan Peterson (4/3/2014), Conferencing – a new, more appropriate way to report on learning? with a perspective from Hobsonville Point Secondary School, about ways to personalise learning with 'powerful partnerships' between learning coaches, students, parents and whānau.

    Parents and families are getting regular, meaningful and useful information about the secret life of schools and everything that they receive is targeted to their student

  • Martin Butts (View all users posts) 18 Feb 2015 10:23am ()

    Hi Tessa,

    Thanks heaps for the links and resources! I agree with you about the change in communication skills - authentic, accessible and less formal - I would also add immediate and relevant, and also more fragmented. I'm not suggesting the latter is a bad thing, but just making the observation.

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 18 Feb 2015 12:11pm ()

    True, true Martin, fragmented and responsive...time consuming for teachers do you think? Or perhaps newer ways of working need to replace older ways of working, rather than an add on... hence I love your rationale for asking parents what they want smiley.

  • Jaimee Browne (View all users posts) 17 Jun 2015 8:45pm ()

    I am currently investigating ways to use blogs as a timely reporting tool. I have hit a stumbling block with privacy issues - so far we have found a blog site that locks it down to just class members but in order for us to share with parents as well it needs to be public. We don't want to be making sensitive data public!


    Has anyone come across a blog style tool that has privacy settings that can be controlled?

    Thanks :)




  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 18 Jun 2015 10:08am ()

    Hi Jaimee, I use Google blogger, which allows you to remove the blog from Google  searches and you can also set the privacy settings to invited guests only - then you add emails addresses for those who can log in and view the blog.

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