School reports decoded

Apple with 'A+' written on it
It’s the end of term and that means one thing – school report time. But what exactly do those cryptic comments in your child’s report mean? Jessica Powell gets teachers to explain.

When you receive your child’s report you might be pleased, concerned or – like many parents – downright confused, as they can be tricky to decipher. Here's what you need to know to understand what the report really means.

“Annual reports are a statutory requirement,” explains head teacher at Gilwern Primary School, Roger Guy. “The format varies significantly between schools but the main area to focus on is the 'General Comment'. This is usually a short paragraph which provides a summary of academic and social strengths and areas to develop.”

So what exactly do those general comments mean? We asked teachers to ‘decode’ five commonly used phrases.

‘Lacks spatial awareness’

What it means: Your child may spread themselves out in class and knock into others on the playground. “With younger children this relates to their ability to control their movements and the development of gross motor skills,” explains Reception teacher at Gilwern Primary, Brady Edwards.

What you can do: “Jigsaws, climbing frames and obstacle courses help develop gross motor control,” says Brady. “Also introduce distance vocabulary. So ask, ‘What is closer, the teddy or the bike?’ and allow them to find out.” With older children, help them to understand the concept of ‘personal space’. “Explain that everyone has their own space, like a ‘bubble’ around them,” suggests Brady.

‘Needs more sustained listening skills’

What it means: “Often children start the lesson well but then begin daydreaming,” explains Bethan Prosser, a year 5 teacher at Cleveland Junior School. “When you ask a question they look confused.”

What you can do: “Try baking cakes together,” suggests Bethan, “Read out the instructions step by step. If they listen, the end product will turn out right.” And they get a tasty reward!

‘Must adapt their speech to a broader range of situations’

What it means: “They might often speak without thinking, shout out or talk over others,” explains Brady.

What you can do: “Try the ‘turn-taking story game’,” suggests Brady. “Each person gets to make up three words of a story at a time. For example, one person says, ‘The pig said’, and the next continues, ‘hello little goat’. This makes them think carefully about what they want to say.”

‘Needs to take a more active role’

What it means: “They will quite happily sit and watch the rest of the class do an activity and not participate unless told to,” explains Bethan.

What you can do: “Suggest games where they play a leading role,” she suggests. Try follow the leader or Chinese whispers (getting them to start the chain). Or set them and their siblings or friends a task, such as building a den, and get them to take turns to be ‘boss’, instructing the others.

‘Must concentrate more’

What it means: “This could also be worded as ‘needs to manage distractions’,” says Brady. It usually means your child is easily distracted by toys, what’s going on outside the classroom, etc.

What you can do: “‘Kim’s game’ is good for developing concentration,” advises Brady. “You show five items to your child for 10 seconds, then they turn around and you remove one. They look again and have to work out what’s disappeared.”