Teachers ditching old-fashioned reports and parents’ evenings

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SCHOOL report cards and parents’ evenings are being ditched by Scottish teachers desperate to cut down on paperwork.

A third of Scottish councils have axed the age-old and frequently feared institutions in favour of email and short, informal meetings with parents.

The development is revealed in new research from government agency Education Scotland.

They discovered that most teachers regard “big end-of-session reports” as a major contribution to school bureaucracy.

A recent report stated: “Inspectors noted that reporting to parents has been a specific cause of workload in schools.

“This issue was mentioned frequently in discussions with representatives of teachers’ professional associations and local negotiating committees for teachers about working time agreements.”

The report added: “To address this issue, around a third of local authorities have introduced new, less bureaucratic approaches to reporting to parents.

“Their aim is to reduce unnecessary workload, while still ensuring parents
get the information they need.”

The report – Review of local authorities’ actions to tackle unnecessary bureaucracy and undue workload in schools – details “emerging best practice”.

This involves more frequent, shorter reports to parents, rather than one big end-of-session report, more oral reporting to parents at meetings, involvement of children and young people in the reporting process and increased use of e-communication and social media.”

Seamus Searson – General Secretary of union the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association was generally supportive of the move.

He said: “The end of year report tends to be full of jargon to just fill up space.

“Sometimes teachers are actually told by head teachers that they have to put in 60 words or 80 words in a report.

“There are only so many times you can say, ‘This pupil is doing well’.

“It’s about schools being smarter about what parents need . Often they want a shorter report.”

He endorsed a system whereby parents keep in regular contact with a single teacher – such as a form tutor – who has an overview of the child’s progress.

This would be in place of the traditional open evening event, where parents attend school to meet with every teacher.

He explained: “I think that’s a more sensible thing than holding it together for one big night in the year.”

Bill Maxwell, chief executive and chief inspector of Education Scotland said: “One of the key themes we looked at during our recent review of local authorities’ effectiveness in reducing bureaucracy in our schools, was ‘tracking, monitoring and reporting’.

“As part of this theme, inspectors noted that over-bureaucratic reporting to parents has been a specific cause of unproductive workload in some schools.

“During the review, inspectors found that around a third of authorities have proactively taken steps to reduce unproductive activity of this sort while ensuring parents continue to get the information they need.

“This included more frequent, shorter reports to parents as well as the use of social media.”

A spokesman for Edinburgh Council – who were highlighted as using the new methods of reporting to parents – said: “A number of our schools are now reporting to parents using various e-comms and social media.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said:“We believe that decisions about children’s learning and school life should be taken at school level, and the more parents are involved the better the outcomes for their children.

“Reporting to parents is clearly a very important way of involving parents and supporting children’s learning.

“As this review highlights, it need not be a burdensome or bureaucratic process which is why we encourage all schools and local authorities to consider whether some of these approaches would work for them.”

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