Diary of an NQT: An honest assessment

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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It is time to compile the termly reports for parents and our NQT diarist is set on being honest and constructive in her feedback

This week I have been preparing my termly reports for all of my students. During the ITT year, reports were not something that was addressed in too much detail, so I think it will be a learning curve for me.

Luckily, my school’s expectations of reports aren’t astronomically huge. The task is fairly straight-forward as we are required to write concise learning targets and grades for each student’s attitude to learning as well as their progress. It still requires a chunk of time to sift through past assessments, exercise books and behaviour records, but the time is well spent as it also provides me with a nice overview of what’s been achieved in the year so far.

It’s quite daunting to know that parents will be reading through these reports – some with a more scrutinising eye than others! Luckily, since the beginning of term, I’ve been quite proactive in communicating with parents regarding some of my trickier students. I’m hoping that for this reason there will be no nasty surprises.

I suppose it’s normal to anticipate some response from parents regarding their children’s reports, which is why I’m making a conscious effort to ensure these are an honest but constructive assessment of all my students. I’m actively avoiding anything that might seem to glaze over issues that really do need to be addressed. If a student isn’t working to their full potential, I’m making a clear point of this. But I’m also ensuring that I nurture and encourage any aspects in which they are doing particularly well. I think the important thing is to make sure the dialogue is transparent and practical.

My main concern is trying to measure a student’s current working grade against an end of year target. As it’s so early in the year, I’m confronted by a rather ominous gap between where the students are now and where they should be in nine months’ time.

This is particularly relevant for my lower-ability classes. This can be quite disconcerting, but I think it’s important to remember that progress does not look the same for every student. And it certainly doesn’t follow a consistent trajectory throughout the year. I’ve noticed that there have been “dips” in progress depending on the task I’m assessing – while some students are stronger in creative writing, their analytical skills may not be as fluent. Naturally, it will always be a work in progress – for my teaching and the students’ learning.

I’m also starting to realise that “progress” doesn’t mean hitting a success criterion once every six weeks when an assessment is carried out; it can come in the form of much smaller gains. For example, if a heavily dyslexic student manages to write a short paragraph that reads perfectly, or a student with a turbulent home life manages to submit a piece of homework successfully, or perhaps one of my GCSE students, who has tried tirelessly in their mock exams, manages to cross that boundary from grade 3 to 4, that’s progress.

It may not seem earth-shattering, but when you see these students on a daily basis, and become aware of their own idiosyncrasies, you know achievement when you see it.

That’s why I’m trying not to think of reports as such a formal measure of my own teaching. I do, however, understand how vital they are: they play an important part in an on-going dialogue between teacher, student and parents. I’m hoping they’ll be a positive and productive foundation for the year to come.

  • Our NQT diarist this year is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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