This Report is Bad!

Your child’s end-of-year report is in your hands. It’s not as good as you expected. Maybe not as good as they expected either.

How should you respond?

If the answer was to be nice rather than nasty, you would not be surprised (especially when the answer is coming from a counsellor). But there is some actual evidence on this.

Researchers asked the parents/carers of 500 11-13-year-olds how they would respond, and sorted the answers into broad categories of punitive or proactive. They then looked at those kids’ results 5 years later. Guess who did better?

Parents/carers who thought that lecturing, punishing or restricting social activities would help actually didn’t help. Their children had lower literacy and maths results at the end of school compared to the children whose parents/carers took the proactive approach.

Better results are linked to a stimulating home environment, with warm, consistent and responsive parenting along with reasonable limits and boundaries.

Understanding the reasons behind poor performance and addressing them will also bring improvement. Teachers are a great source of information on this.

What about rewards? Linking rewards to reports is unlikely to be a motivator for many students. For most kids, the uncertain prospect of a distant reward may not be enough to get started early on the assignment in front of them right now. 

Focusing on improvement from one semester to the next rather than on getting particular grades is likely to be more effective too.

A lot of work goes into producing school reports. It’s a good idea to pay close attention to them and to teacher feedback so that the next report can reflect positive changes.

Reference: ‘If you want your child to bring home better grades, stop yelling and try this’ at 

Information about counselling both in and out of school is at {base_url}/learning-teaching

Martin Graham
School Counsellor