OPINION: Cut, paste school reports mean nothing

THE cut and paste school reports from schools are nothing more than a system developed to avoid the fact that standards are falling. This type of reporting simply feeds parents meaningless information.
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Parents on several occasions have come to me with report cards asking what they mean. I tell them that they are meaningless, as students are not given marks or grade placings. The glossy paper and flowery gobbledegook are designed to confuse rather than inform.

Teachers are not allowed to tell the truth and only officially sanctioned comments, chosen from a prepared list, are put on reports. This self-serving system means that children cannot fail and teachers and schools cannot be challenged.

Image creation is everything these days and schools are well and truly into the fantasy world of smoke and mirrors. This is most evident when you trawl through their websites.

I browsed a few. The same delighted children doing exciting things can be seen on many different school websites.

When I asked the Education Department about it, it said that the website ‘‘template service’’ was part of their corporate look, available to schools to use if they want.

The same seems to apply to school reports.

There was a time when reports were honest and parents believed what they read. In my experience, they rather liked being told the truth even though the comments may have been unflattering.

Today, in the public school system, it would be impossible to report that a child was ‘‘lazy’’, ‘‘disruptive’’, ‘‘inattentive’’ or ‘‘rude’’. It would also be a rarity to find a school report where a pupil was given say 68per cent for maths, which placed him 16/28 in the class with an overall grade placing of 52/120.

Parents who have lost faith in the system and want to get to the nitty-gritty do have an option but it involves time, effort and money.

A private educational institution can measure a child’s IQ. If, for example, little Billy has an IQ of 120 and is 10 years old, he should have a reading and maths age of an average 12 year old. (Ten points of IQ equates to one year’s intelligence.)

If the school report is glowing with all sorts of meaningless adjectives but young Billy’s measured performance is below par, parents have every right to query the validity of the document.

Privately, teachers tell me the weight of meaningless documentation they must comply with leaves them burnt out.

Our NAPLAN testing is an attempt to independently test schools to ensure standards are lifted and funding follows.

This is steering our schools away from the ‘‘Mickey Mouse’’ stuff and stressing the basic skills that parents and industry demand.

Those who send their children to private schools pay a fortune in fees. They expect – and get – accurate and revealing information about their children. There is far more emphasis on academic excellence.

The public school system should do the same.

Geoff Walker is a former state school teacher.

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