Concordia Winter 2023

The Art of Reporting

state primary boys to the school which led to the creation of the Third Form after the war. The school moved to individual reports for each subject in 1976, giving teachers greater scope (supposedly) to be diagnostic and to suggest areas for improvement. This, of course, relied on being able to decipher staff handwriting. Dennis Ogan gave Charles Watkins (1967-1971), a former pupil who rejoined the school as a member of staff, the advice that large handwriting was a definite advantage for the new system. There were many notable challenges, including David Mash and Thierry Rocher whose script challenged proof-readers and pupils alike. Chris Poppe (1973-1977) recalls: My only experience of an amusing report was accidental. The wonderful Mr John Steane who took me for English from 1973 to 1977 had very bad handwriting. In the course of his comments he wrote: "also the winner, well deserved, of the Form Elocution Prize". (Very kind!) However, what it looked like was: "also he whimpers, well deceased, of the Famed Electrocution Panic". Whilst it may have been an advantage to provide the opportunity to be more discursive, Charles Watkins had the perspective of seeing the former system as a pupil and the new as a teacher. He was left wondering how colleagues could possibly write two sides of prose with the conviction of certainty: for him only 5 per cent of any report could contain anything other than a perception of truth. By the late 1960s reports were starting to evolve a little, taking into account the broader life of pupils even if their academic progress was only briefly commented on. Charles Watkins’s reports also reside in the school archive and they reveal a greater interest in extra-curricular activities. This was built upon when the tutor system was put into

place by Head Master, David Skipper, in the 1980s and tutors were given the opportunity to write at length about the wider life of their tutee. Charles Watkins recalls the advice that the new Head Master gave to the SCR about report writing “Before you write, ask yourself three questions:

Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?”

Head Master Jon Gabitass oversaw the institution of full Tutor Reports born of a discussion between tutors and tutees. The idea was that pupils would reflect on their own progress prior to the discussion by means of a self-review form. Although this met with mixed success (boys were not necessarily disposed to be reflective) the process laid the foundations for modern reporting and the introduction of coaching to the school. Nowadays, all teachers undergo a coaching course to enhance these discussions, and the quality of tutoring, self-reflection and reporting have been enhanced as a result. Jon Gabitass also reintroduced ranking for examination results, a move that met with mixed reaction despite his own claim that he had had to deal with coming bottom once when he was at school. Speaking to Jon recently, he reflected: You ask about ranking. Boys are graded for effort and achievement, but a collection of B2s for example does not give a clear idea of how a boy stands in relation to others in his set or class. I can think of numerous occasions when parents were surprised or even startled to find their son was low down in the order, when grades suggested he wasn't. Grades can be a very approximate way of assessing progress. To be ranked – say, at the end of each term – in a class order (e.g. 7th out of 22) gives an added and clearer picture. I acknowledge, however, that some teachers might feel awkward about such an instrument.


"By the late 1960s reports were starting to evolve a little, taking into account the broader life of pupils even if their academic progress was only briefly commented on."

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