Yesterday, my son handed me an envelope and said ‘don’t tell me off about all the red’. Well, he’s said it. What else was I going to do?
The envelope contained his school report. It’s not really a school report as I know it, it’s just numbers and colours – green if you’ve got better, white if you’ve stayed the same, red if you’ve got worse. There were four boxes of red and I wasn’t happy. Because I don’t see my son making any effort, I don’t see him doing any homework. Frankly, he probably deserves this red. But you can bet your bottom quid that, when his brother and sister bring home their glowing reports, he will kick right off that they are getting praise and we didn’t praise him that much.
But can we compare? Are the reports the same?
It made me start thinking back. Way, way back. When my son started school, it took me a while to adjust – to him being a school child and me being the parent of a school child. To be honest, it probably took me three years, until my younger son was there too, before I felt properly comfortable with school. Now, I am VERY comfortable with our primary school. I love it. I totally get it. I’m a school governor, I’m in my eighth year as a parent there, I’ve got two kids there, I help out there. I totally understand it.
But history is repeating itself. My son has gone off somewhere else that I don’t get. But the difference is, I’m not waiting in the playground, I’m not taking him there in the morning. I wonder if I will ever really get it.
So he brings home a report with loads of numbers and red on it. Am I right to be disappointed, or is this just the way it is at secondary school? Do I need my younger son to be at secondary too before I truly understand what it’s all about?
Well, here’s the thing. I think, even though I’ve not quite adjusted to the whole secondary school idea, I AM right to be disappointed. Yes, primary school reports contain some fluffy words, but reports from our school contain numbers too, which are increasingly based on very hard evidence of children’s attainment against strict criteria. Those numbers carry through Key Stage 1 (that’s the infants if you’re not familiar with school), through Key Stage 2 (the juniors), into Key Stage 3 (the early years of secondary school) and beyond. The numbers relate to (SATs) Levels and sub-levels. The numbers are the same whether you are in year 2 or year 7. Scarily, it is perfectly possible for a year 7 to be getting the same numbers as a year 2.
These reports, whether primary or secondary, show progress from one term to the next. And in the case of the secondary school, if there’s no progress, there’s going to be red on the report.
I’m not going to be cross this time, but nor am I going to be taken in by the typical tween/ teen protest of: ‘But everyone else had more red than me!’. I may not understand secondary school, but I understand progress and working hard.
And I’m going to make damn sure my son works hard and makes some progress from now on. Because next time there will be no Mrs Nice Mummy.