Sandra Dick: Teachers can swot up on reports

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COULD do better. Might achieve more if actually bothered to occasionally listen. Puts more effort into being the class clown than work. Will end up sweeping the streets, if not prepared to focus.

It’s school report card time, when children are nervous and parents are bad tempered or, if their little darling has done well, breaking their legs to get on Facebook to post smarmy updates about how marvellous their brat is compared to your school dunce.

We’re not quite at “dunce” level in our house nor are we scaling Einstein heights. We are, in the words of the great modern anodyne report card “satisfactory”.

My memories of school report cards are of my teachers’ blistering analysis of my poor attention span, my total failure to grasp anything at all to do with maths – but the doodles on my maths jotter were totally brilliant – my inability to shut up, the usual kind of character assassination that made the final weeks of summer term fraught for those among us who weren’t straight A swots.

But while school reports were often blistering and scathing, they were usually at least constructive.

Flicking through my boys’ report cards, however, it feels like everything is mind-numbingly “satisfactory”.

The straight-talking “could do better” and “failing miserably”, even the glowing praise of the old report cards, have dropped out of teachers’ vocabulary for fear of hurting anyone’s feelings.

The results are inoffensive reports that actually manage to say very little about exactly how children are really progressing.

Given my son’s name changes from David to Cameron half way through his report card, I suspect they are often just a cut and paste from the report card “comments bank” website – indeed there is such a thing for teachers too busy thinking about the long school holidays to write an original and individual summary for your child.

No-one wants to crush children’s hopes by labelling them total failures, but sometimes some “pull your socks up” straight talk helps. Take England starlet Raheem Sterling, told by a teacher: “Carry on the way you’re going, you’ll either end up in prison or playing for England.”

Or my friend, who left French class with bottom lip quivering after being informed that she had all the potential of a street sweeper, words which spurred her on to a successful career that has taken her all over the world.

When it comes to report cards, here’s my non-PC advice for teachers: really must do better.