Education Quandary: My son's independent school doesn't post his reports home until the beginning of the holidays. Should we complain?

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Hilary's advice

The point of school reports and parent-teacher conferences are to help home and school work together for the good of the child. In your case, you say you get two parent-teacher conferences a year, in term-time, but your son's two annual reports are posted home at the beginning of the Christmas and summer holidays, so you can't discuss them with teachers.

In fact this is a common system, as reports are often conveying end-of-term results. I agree it's frustrating not to be able to take up any issues with the school until the following term, but for me a much more important question is: what information do you have to hand when you meet your son's teachers at your two scheduled conferences? Is the school good at keeping you abreast of his progress? Because if you turn up with no hint, that he is, say, floundering in French or not turning in his maths homework, then the news is going to take you by surprise and the conferences are not going to be nearly as coherent and considered as they could be.

I would accept the limitations of when reports are sent home provided I was happy with how these parent-teacher conferences were run, and felt that home-school relations were generally good. But if I felt that the school's main aim was to keep parents off its back, and that sending reports out at holiday times was an intentional part of this, then I would press for changes.

Readers' advice

I can't believe that school reports are still how schools communicate with parents. Surely parents should be able to log on to a school's website and get information about their children's progress at any time, as well as send messages to any teachers they want to contact? This is how people automatically now communicate in the wider world.

Shirley Edwards, Hertfordshire

Last year our younger daughter's report showed a really bad chemistry mark, even though we had been told she was making good progress in all her sciences. We phoned the school and managed to speak to the head, but he was unable to contact our daughter's chemistry teacher who was already away on holiday. Had we got the report before the end of term, our daughter could have been given holiday revision to help her get up to scratch. Instead, she had to wait six weeks before she could find out what she needed to do make up lost ground.

Miriam Hamble, London SW10

We also have big complaints about our children's school reports, although not about when they are sent, but about what horrible jargon and bad English they are written in. They always talk about reading as "decoding print", and no teacher seems to know the difference between "practise" and "practice". My children love school and we are always being told that they are doing well there, but every year when we read their reports we wonder what "well" means if these are the kind of standards that their teachers think are acceptable for themselves.

Marie McDonald, Berkshire

Next Week's Quandary

After just a week of school, both our children – 11 and 15 – seem in no state to learn anything in the mornings. We send them to bed at a proper time, but think that they don't go to sleep until late. They don't have TVs in their rooms.

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