An estimated 10,300 new entrants are just starting school -
and beginning to learn the "three Rs".
And their parents will soon have to learn to grapple with the
fourth R: Reports.
The Herald on Sunday analysed some of last year's primary
school reports and found a wide - and sometimes weird -
variety of ways schools communicate with parents.
One school in a well-to-do Auckland suburb gave parents a
colour-coded end-of-year report including a "key competencies
self-assessment" filled in by the 6-year-old pupil.
Another school supplied an entire folder detailing
achievements and areas in need of improvement.
Newmarket School principal Wendy Kofoed did a doctoral thesis
on the language of reports.
She said she constantly reviewed her reports to make sure
they were easy to understand.
"Clarity is still the big issue in the language we use."
Kofoed said reports with many levels, ages, and stages could
"We're providing so much information that it is making
reporting in some cases less accessible for parents who want
to know their children are doing well and are making
"We can convey that reasonably simply."
Lynda Harris, founder of the Writemark Plain English Awards,
is also a former teacher.
She said a layer of technical language was now part of
"It isn't just in the language of reports.Those technical
terms are used in the classroom daily."
Children routinely spoke a "foreign language" to their
parents about their own learning, Harris said.
Student achievement was measured against National Standards
but the Education Ministry said it had no plans to
Deputy secretary of student achievement, Rowena Phair, said
schools could report on progress to parents in whatever way
they considered appropriate, using "clear and easily
"The ministry provides guidance for schools on how they might
report to parents, which includes examples of good practice,"
she said. "There are no plans to require schools to
standardise how they report to parents about their child's
The ministry estimates 62,000 new entrants will start school
during the 2014 year.
- Herald on Sunday