Concordia Winter 2023

The Art of Reporting

fortune). On top of that, there were form teachers’ reports and tutor reports: belt and braces. To help with those, colourful year-group ring-binders were placed in the Common Room into which every teacher had to enter a comment on each boy’s involvement in their games or activity session. If you ran something like soccer, which I did, there were huge numbers of comments to be made and overworked colleagues all too frequently resorted to a large, handwritten, curlicued brace encompassing 20 or 30 names to which they would append the single word, “good”: clearly intended to vent a howl of pain rather than be particularly useful to a tutor stumped for something to say about Blenkinsop’s performance in the Robson League. Reports were typically due at the end of play on Mondays and Thursdays, and what with games and matches on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, extra coaching on Thursday, and the Corps, D of E or Community Service on Friday, it was always a tremendous rush to meet the deadlines; and all too often, reports were scribbled in rags of time, particularly during the cricket season where an away fixture of “six o’clock plus twenty overs” (none of this 20–over nonsense) meant you wouldn’t be home from Dulwich or Paul’s until gone nine in the evening. Successive deadlines often appeared over the horizon in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Those due before the October half term for the incoming Fourths were a particular challenge for those subjects allocated only one or two lessons a week. Wilier members of the Common Room solved this problem by awarding the most uncontroversial grade possible (B2). The grade recurred so often that Neil Richards informed me, with a completely straight face, that “B2” was Common Room slang for, “who?” Word processing simply made matters worse. It took no prisoners. You were caught naked in the spotlight and

simply couldn’t get away anymore with the “old school” pith of “Trying, very” plus some marvellously rococo illegible signature; those glory days were gone, and an unappetizing brave new world of labyrinthine sentences and baroque usages beckoned. Common Room responded with its usual low cunning, picking the brains of the “IT–literate” brigade and quickly discovering that one could replicate the old handwritten ploys with double-spaced lines, subtle indentations, bulleted lists and fonts like Comic Sans. The result was an unholy looking mess. Darkness was on the face of the deep, until Tim Stubbs got to work on it, hovered over the face of the waters, and said let there be Bookman Old Style point 12. Momentarily nonplussed, Common Room reached for the hemlock: “How much will we have to write? ” thundered the indignant question. However, spurred on by its horror of the blank page it regrouped rapidly and sought refuge in a different lifeboat: a massively long opening paragraph relentlessly itemising every aspect of the syllabus that had been covered in the preceding six months; and glory be, once that had been written there was barely space to write more than a single sentence on Scroggins! An added bonus was that if you typed your paragraph into the cell of a mail merge table you only had to do it once! This was a thing of beauty: victory had been snatched from the jaws of defeat! “Trying, very” was back with a vengeance! Strangely enough, it took the powers– that–be several years to ban this rather obvious piece of sharp practice, but not before it was lampooned, with typical brilliance, by Nigel Blight in a set of General Studies reports. I cannot recall his exact words sufficiently clearly to do them full justice, but the report began with a brutally huge slab of text along the lines of: “We covered: the nature of time and space; the scientific status of


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