Teachers could do better with the aid of computer

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The Independent Online
TRADITIONAL SCHOOL reports are being replaced with praise and criticism from an automatic "pick and mix" computer system for teachers.

Ministers have praised the system, which replaces handwritten exhortations such as "must do better" with multiple-choice comments chosen by the click of a computer mouse.

Under the scheme, developed at The Boswells School in Chelmsford, Essex, teachers write five or six standard statements for each part of the curriculum they have covered.

They then use a computer menu to select the comments that apply to each child, and the computer strings them together into a finished report.

Ministers singled out the "computerised report system" for praise as part of a national contest to cut red tape in schools, saying it speeded report writing and helped to personalise reports.

But parents say computerised reports are too impersonal, and run the risk of giving two children the same one. A spokeswoman for the Campaign for State Education said: "Parents have been particularly critical about computer- generated reports. They don't worry if they get a short report, but they want it to be focused on their child."

Research published last year found that more than a third of schools used so-called "statement-banks" to make up their reports. Teachers say the computerised reports cut their workload and provide more detailed information for parents.

Doug Johnson, head of religious education at The Boswells School, who wrote the program, said teachers could rewrite the reports and insisted that the process did not harm the quality of information.

"Teachers write statements for their subject in each year, then pick the appropriate statements for each pupil," he said. "It forces them to concentrate on every aspect of the curriculum. Having read many handwritten reports by teachers who were tired and overworked, they tend to be bland."

A government consultation paper suggested that schools set up a computer system to store records of pupils' attendance, behaviour and grades. The data could then be used to provide print-outs for parents.

How It Would Work

Computer choices for a school report.

1 I have been very impressed by the standard of his work throughout the year.

2 I have been very impressed by the standard of his work on many occasions.

3 I have been pleased with the standard of his work on numerous occasions.

4 I have been pleased with the standard of his work although he should aim for greater consistency.

5 I have been disappointed with the standard of his work as it has frequently been the result of too little effort.

6 I have been disappointed with the standard of his work as it has been below the level he is capable of achieving.

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