Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta
It’s traditional for schools to issue reports around this time of the year. Even before COVID-19, this process needed an update to better share relevant details about student progress.
After two months supporting student learning from home, it’s timely to recognise that families have a lot to report about how their children are travelling ‘at school’ too. Surely students should have a voice in this as well!
When I was a child (and even when I was a teacher), report cards were a single-source of truth for families. Some parents promised lavish rewards for A+ results. Too often, the consequences of poor results were incredibly harsh and limited further opportunities to stay on at school. Rather than a chance to support students towards growth, they were an unquestioned and sometimes ungenerous, even harmful, statement of your value as a learner, and unfortunately in some cases, as a person.
Nowadays, I think families want a clear read on how their kids are going and how they can help. The A to E reporting scale usually required by the Government seeks to provide this clarity, though it is unloved by teachers who often feel that it doesn’t say enough about student progress and needs. I think the decision from the education authorities to allow a simpler approach for the time being is common sense. Families can expect to see valuable information about their children’s learning, with a focus on a couple of key areas.
Of course, school reports never surpass the richness of the learning conversations families have with their child’s teacher. We want learning to be owned by the learner, so why do we leave them out of these important conversations? Who better to share insights into the support that’s needed, both at school and home? Especially for older students, there’s a sense of procedural fairness in this. I’m a real fan of the ‘student-led conference’ in place of speed-dating-style parent-teacher interviews.
If there’s one message I want to send home to families it’s this: if you’ve got a concern about your child’s learning or wellbeing, don’t wait for report or interview time, let your school know ASAP. Reports are just one of many ways that we can communicate as we continue to build on our work together to support students during the COVID-19 and beyond. Schools are here to help: you could say, we’re reporting for duty!
Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta