November 19, 2018


How to talk to your child about their school report

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Remember to look for the positives in your child’s report.

Katina Zammit, Western Sydney University

It’s that time of year again when you receive your child’s school report. For some parents and carers, understanding what it means can be challenging. Some children will be happy and others may be disappointed.

Parents and carers need to interpret the information in the report so you can determine the strengths of your child, work out how their learning is progressing and what areas they’re having difficulty in. This may involve having a discussion with your child or a follow-up meeting with your child’s teacher.

Read more:
Some school reports valuable for parents, others just a mystery

It’s important to remember to be supportive, consider the personality of your child and focus on their progress.

Achievement standards: A-E grades

Primary and secondary schools (not including the senior years) in most Australian states use A-E grades to describe the learning progress of children.

We’re not all strong in the same subjects.

So what do the letters A to E on your child’s report card actually represent?

The A-E grades may also be used to report on a child’s effort in a curriculum area. So a child may have a high grade for effort but a lower grade for achievement. If effort is basic (D) or low (E), this may be of concern.

Talking about the report

It’s important to ask your child: what do you think of the grade (for the subject)? Talking about this helps you open up a conversation about whether the report is close to what your child thinks they’ve achieved. If your child thinks they are not doing very well, focus on their achievements in one subject as well as pointing out their achievements outside of school. Focus on their progress.

If you are not familiar with what your child has been learning, find out what they have been doing in each subject. You can ask: what tasks have you been doing in class? Have you been finishing the tasks? What did you find easy? What was hard for you?

If their grade is based on a single test, it provides little information on what your child’s strengths are or their difficulties. With a range of tasks (completed in class and at home), the grade may be a better representation of your child’s achievement. So ask them: do you know how you got this grade? What assessments have you done in class? If they or you can’t answer these questions, you may both be unhappy because you don’t understand how the grades were calculated.

It’s important to discuss academic strengths and weaknesses with your child.

This might be the time to talk about the grades for effort in the subject, which can tell you how much your child is trying. Ask: I notice you have been putting a lot of effort into (subject). That’s good. You’re trying hard. Or, what is happening in (subject) that’s affecting your effort? What can your do to improve?

This enables you to have insight into what’s going well and in which subject, which may reflect their interests, dislikes and challenges.

It also opens up discussion of what they’re finding difficult and why. Find out if they weren’t interested or the work was too hard for them. Different children have different interests, skills and passions which may not be reflected in their report card. Children also have different personalities that influence their learning, their progress and their report. We’re not all academically inclined.

If your child is disappointed point out the positives. Say: you tried really hard in (subject). I know you are having some difficulties, but look at what you have learnt this year.

A child’s answers can be an opportunity for discussing their progress with the teacher and what adjustments can be made to ensure continued progresses. This may be at the school organised teacher-parent interview, or you can ask for an interview with the teacher. You can then talk to your child about these adjustments and frame them along the lines of: your teacher thinks you’ll start to enjoy reading more if you and I do some more reading at home.

The comments section

Comments also highlight the strengths and weaknesses of your child as a learner.

Read more:
Testing times: making the case for new school assessment

What does the comment say about the child? Does the comment hint at an area of concern, either academically, socially or behaviourally? Does the comment reflect what you know about your child? If it doesn’t, you need to make time to speak with their teacher. Again, use the opportunity to ask your child, after reading the comments aloud: what do you think of this comment? Why has the teacher made this comment?

Throughout the conversation with your child about their report, remember to look for the positives: your child’s strengths, the progress they’re making. Talk about what might help them in areas they’re doing well in, as well as those they are finding challenging. Explain the report to them and help them understand what it means.The Conversation

Katina Zammit, Deputy Dean, School of Education, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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  • I remember school reports being all hush hush when I was at school. Sent home in sealed envelopes. The results certainly were never discussed with us


  • We teach our kids to focus on the comments rather than the mark


  • I like the idea of school reports saying very clearly where kids need help and what they’re doing well in. It doesn’t help anyone if the teachers just say “well he’s trying really hard”.


  • Oh no, this is going to happen with my child


  • Our secondary school has not used the A to E system at all during my son’s 6 years there. I believe the standard has been lowered because of it. 49% is no longer a fail and 50% just a pass. The report cards work to dots and scaling which I find so unhelpful and basically, it’s so hard to fail now. You just re-sit to pass. I believe our Education System is troubled and not helping our students or educating them in the best way. I much preferred the A to E system.


  • It is very confusing to understand when the teacher writes a glowing report about how well you child has learnt and done extra work on some subject, then be given low grades for them. Then no, the teacher isn’t willing to talk to you in a meeting until the next parent / teacher meeting which is not for 3 months


  • My kids love sport and participate as best they can and their old PE teacher gave them the lowest grade???? In year 2 one of them!!! How does a year 2 get an E for PE??? I have them in a new school now as we moved interstate but I spoke to other mums who said the same?? I don’t look to their grades too much though as I always speak with their teachers during the year and it takes a lot to stay on top of what three kids are doing but somehow I find out what I can and help where I can.


  • Alternatively, you can ask the school to redefine their A-E definitions. The only requirement is that it is a 5 point scale. You can ask them to change the definition of a “c” to “at standard” or “expected achievement”. a “B” could be “above expected” and a “D” Needs further development” etc. A-E grading provides additional worry and angst for children and parents unnecessarily however it can be a useful tool to identify those children who need extra help or need extension work.


  • I am way look for strengths and areas that need work. For us it’s a constructive argument “what can I do better?” followed up with something positive. Our primary school is not good with the grading itself (kids have to be working a year or two ABOVE their current grade to get an A). I really feel like making an A so unattainable the kids lose that drive to be better.


  • Let children be children. But at the same time it’s important to drum into them the need to do well at school


  • All I ask is they try their best and be kind to others. Not all kids are going to be at the top of the class.


  • I think it’s important to note on the quality of the teacher and how engaged your child is in the classroom


  • I have teenagers and toddlers, my eldest son has just had his year 11 exams and my words to him are “I expect you to show up and do your best, nothing more nothing less”


  • Great article for parents to read and understand.


  • It’s important to highlight the positive but children also need to know their growth points.


  • Actually I think we should have a chat about school, topics, what they like and don’t like, what they find hard or not etc, well BEFORE the school reports come out. And don’t forget about the whole topic of friends, the social and mental wellbeing of our kids is just as important


  • A very good article for parents.


  • As a tutor it astounds me how many parents don’t do this.


  • Some great suggestions to keep in mind when my child reaches the school age.


  • Great tools if they are used correctly.


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