The school reports that are written by a computer and used by thousands of teachers

Mar 2, 2013 by

Teachers say it means they don’t have to ‘spend all weekend’ writing reports

They may have been hand- written scrawls, but school reports could once be relied on for a blunt assessment of a pupil’s progress.

Now it has emerged that thousands of primary and secondary school teachers are relying on computer software to do the work for them.

The software, which costs up to £350, allows them to produce reports in seconds by simply giving the child’s name and ability, then clicking on bland stock phrases.

Worrying: Are parents being short-changed by computer generated reports?

One software package, ReportBox, is used in just under 300 primary schools in the UK. The company says about 3,000 teachers are using it.

All they have to do is cut and paste the names of their pupils into a blank box.

The software, designed by an ex-teacher, even guesses the gender of the child, based on their names.

They then get access to 15,000 frequently used comments.

For example, if a child is of higher ability, the demo shows the report would read that he or she ‘enjoys all aspects of art and is able to put excellent imagination and attention to detail to good use.’

Middle or lower ability children would get remarks such as: ‘Ben enjoys all aspects of art and is able to produce some good paintings and drawings. In order to perfect these he needs to pay closer attention to detail and take more care with work.’


Up to half of children in some areas of the country failed to get into their preferred secondary school yesterday.

Tens of thousands of 11-year-olds missed out on their top choices as the best state schools received more than 1,000 applications each.

In some areas, hundreds of pupils did not get into any of the six schools on their application forms and will be forced to travel to less popular comprehensives.

Council data shows the rejection rate is driven by competition for the best grammar schools and a new generation of academies and free schools.

Experts believe an exodus of cash-strapped middle-class parents from the private sector is also fuelling demand.

In Buckinghamshire – a grammar school region – 45.8 per cent of pupils failed get their first-choice secondary.

In London 41.6 per cent of children in Westminster and 43 per cent in Wandsworth did not get their favoured secondary school.

Across the capital the figure was 29.4 per cent on average.

Janette Wallis, of the Good Schools Guide, said: ‘Competition for places at the most popular state schools is at fever pitch.

‘Increasing numbers of parents who would in rosier times have sent their  children private are now joining  the throngs.’

ReportBox costs £99 plus VAT to help write reports for up to 100 pupils and £299 plus VAT for an unlimited number of students.

One deputy head said it meant she and her colleagues didn’t have to ‘spend all weekend’ writing reports.

Another wrote in an online review: ‘While my colleagues speak of being up at 2am writing reports, mine took just over three hours to sort out, not 33 hours!’

But critics described it as ‘lazy’ and said parents were being ‘short-changed.’

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘This is a very lazy way of writing reports.

‘The schools are educating the children on behalf of the parents and have a duty to inform them. I know, where a teacher has a lot of pupils, it’s a bit of a chore.

‘But it’s his or her responsibility to provide detailed, personal information to the parent – not just summon up these general phrases.

‘Parents have a right to receive particular information about their child, not computer generated generalisations.’

Another software package, called The Report King, is designed so that all teachers have to do is type in ‘l’ for lower achiever, ‘m’ for medium achiever or ‘h’ for high achiever.

They are then offered a selection of suitable stock remarks to choose from.

It claims the system ‘conforms fully with the expectation of Ofsted, your local authority, head teachers and parents’. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, denied it was a ‘lazy’ way to write reports.

‘It would be if everyone was  getting the same reports, but that’s not the case with the software now,’ he said.

Mr Lightman said that the ‘vast majority’ of secondary schools also use report writing software, for example SIMS Teacher Comments from Capita.

Capita’s website estimates the software saves teachers 30 minutes per report.

Old school: Teachers are now turning their back on manually-written reports for a computer generated version

Old school: Teachers are now turning their back on manually-written reports for a computer generated version (Posed by model)

via The school reports that are written by a computer and used by thousands of teachers | Mail Online.

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