Making Sense of School Reports

It’s the last half term of the school year.  This means that your child’s teacher has more than likely spent a large proportion of the half term holiday writing end of year reports.

It is a legal requirement for schools to report to parents about their child’s progress at the end of the school year.  You may receive other written reports at other times in the year as well, and the school must also provide at least one opportunity for you to discuss your child’s progress with their teacher (parent’s evening).

School reports can sometimes be difficult for parents to get their heads around.  Often parents have asked me to explain things on their child’s report.  They use school jargon and “teacher speak”.  Some are full of written comments, and others are just tick boxes.  Both can be just as difficult to understand.

What’s in the report?

School reports must include a brief outline of what your child has achieved in all subjects, a general comment on their progress, and how you can discuss the report further if you want to.  They also tend to include targets or next steps for your child to work on. 

Your child’s attendance record and end of key stage SATs results (if in Year 2 or Year 6) are included with the report too. 

What does it all mean?

Each school will use different terms in reports, but they all broadly mean the same thing.

After a bit of research asking my teacher friends what words and phrases were used in their school reports, these are the most common:

Attainment – this is an academic standard based on assessments or tests.

Progress – this means achievements made over a period of time (eg the school year).

ARE = Age Related Expectations –  this is what the National Curriculum states are the average expectations for what children of each age group should be able to do. 

These expectations were dramatically heightened in 2014 and again in 2016 by the government (not education experts).  For example, children in Y6 are now expected to be able to understand maths concepts that have been brought down from the Year 8 curriculum. 

These “average” expectations are on the whole not in line with what research tells us about how children develop and learn, in that they expect a lot for the child’s age and what they are developmentally ready for, and therefore, for many children, these “average” expectations are actually very challenging to achieve.

WBE = Working Below Expected/Below Expected/Working Below – This means your child is not yet achieving their ARE.  Children working below the expected standard are more than likely on the Special Needs register and will have a My Plan or My Plan Plus detailing the small steps they are taking to make progress.  Just because they are not working at the average standard compared to their peers, this does not mean they have not made great progress individually during the year.

WTE = Working Towards Age Related Expectations – This means your child is beginning to achieve at the expected standard, possibly with extra support, but is not yet able to do so consistently or independently. However, reports often don’t give an idea of how close your child is to achieving them.  It might only be down to a couple of small areas, or that your child is one of the many that are not yet ready to take on the very high expectations, but prior to 2014 would have been assessed as working at the average level for their age.  With a bit of time and maturity, they will get there.  Your child may be getting extra support in school in the form of Teaching Assistant support, or small group intervention work to help them.  They may be on the SEN register in which case they will have a My Plan or My Plan Plus which will detail the small steps being taken to help them with their learning.

EXS = Working At the Expected Standard/Achieving/Making Expected/Secure- Your child is meeting the “average” expectations for their age.  All is fine.  They are where they should be. In fact, I’d say they are doing more than OK, as the expectations are very high.

Above Expected/Exceeding/Working above ARE/Working at Greater Depth (GD) – This means that your child is exceeding the “average” expectations consistently.  They are able to explain their thinking, reason, problem solve, and apply their learning to other situations.  Out of a class of 30 children, you would expect on average around 3 or 4 children to be working at this level.

And finally…

Whilst academic achievement is important, so too is how happy and settled your child is at school.  If they are not happy, they will struggle to learn. If they are happy, settled, polite, helpful, kind, considerate of others and try their best, then it doesn’t really matter where they are deemed to be accademically, as these are the soft traits that really matter in the big wide world for which a level or grade cannot be given.

If your child’s report shows they need extra support with their learning, contact me to find out how I can help.

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1 thought on “Making Sense of School Reports”

  1. Interestingly my child’s school reports during Covid have had attendance on there but it was whether or not they had engaged in the online learning. It seemed a bit pointless to be honest as nobody checked whether we did any online learning until the January- March 2021 lockdown, even then this was marked as 100% when my child didn’t do all the work and sometimes didn’t even login to the virtual lesson.


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