Is ‘on report’ a positive sanction intended to modify behaviour or simply a negatively phrased document used to record the number of occasions when a pupil’s behaviour is unacceptable?

Reporting systems can be many and varied. They might take the form of a physical meeting between a member of staff and pupil to ensure attendance or that the pupil has the correct equipment, books, clothing, etc. They might also take the form of a written document that the pupil is expected to carry from lesson to lesson, presenting it to each member of staff, who will then ‘score’ or comment on the pupil’s behaviour during the lesson. This is often monitored by a class teacher, tutor or head of year and discussed with the pupil.

Unfortunately, systems are only effective if applied fully and consistently. The report card system can break down due to a range of problems:

  1. Pupil loses report form.
  2. Pupil forgets to present form to subject or class teacher.
  3. Report form is not reviewed by head of year or tutor at appropriate time.
  4. Report system is used as a negative record of behaviour rather than a positive tool to help pupil.
  5. Comments and/or scores are forged by the pupil.

The whole ‘on report’ system can have a very negative effect on self-esteem and relationships with peers.

It’s worth highlighting point six. If a system intended to promote a positive change in behaviour is having a negative effect on a pupil due to ridicule or labelling by other pupils, it will never succeed. Pupils should see the process as one that encourages, promotes and rewards acceptable behaviour.

With some pupils, ‘on report’ can be seen as the norm. They have been on report for so long or so frequently that the system ceases to have any impact or meaning for either student or member of staff. The intention of the system is to focus intensely for a short period of time on the pupil’s behaviour, encouraging him or her to make good choices and to point out how they can improve. The danger of over-use of this type of system is over-familiarity and also over-emphasis on negative behaviour. The ‘on report’ status should not be used to highlight all the negatives, thus giving far too much attention to unwanted behaviours.

Practical Tips
A simple checklist to evaluate the use of ‘on report’ should include the following:

  1. Is there a time frame that has been agreed by all parties?
  2. Did ‘on report’ begin with a clear explanation of the system, with set times to monitor and evaluate progress?
  3. Do all members of staff fully understand the process/system and consistently complete the necessary paperwork, etc?
  4. Is the pupil capable of undertaking what is proposed (ie carrying a card around, presenting it to each teacher)?
  5. Is there an alternative to the card system (eg electronic tracking and recording)?
  6. Is the information shared with all parties (ie staff, pupil, parent/carer)?
  7. Is the system having a positive effect on pupil behaviour? (If not, then why continue with it?)

To quickly unpick some of the points above, it is very important for the pupil to understand why he or she is ‘on report’. This should be presented to them at a one-to-one meeting, allowing time to discuss the issues and the best way forward.

A time frame should be agreed at the start of the ‘on report’ period, with clearly understood and timetabled meetings to review and evaluate progress.

A system that is not supported consistently by all staff will not succeed. If a true measure of behaviour and progress is to be obtained, a clear baseline must be established, using contributions from all participants. Some members of staff may decide not to complete the form as they do not experience problems with the pupil, but there is all the more reason for this to be noted.

The phrasing of the ‘on report’ information needs to be carefully structured. Positive behaviour should always be emphasised rather than listing all the difficulties the pupil may have. For instance:

Problem: Pupil A has great difficulty in:a) staying in his seatb) not calling outc) bringing the correct equipment

d) starting on time.

If the report information records how many times he:

a) leaves his seatb) calls out inappropriatelyc) doesn’t have the correct equipment

d) starts late

then too much emphasis is being placed on unwanted behaviour. It is more likely to be successful if positives are recorded and reinforced. A reminder at the start of the lesson together with key prompts during it will help the pupil make good choices that can be recorded as positives on the report.

The overall concept of ‘on report’ should be to make positive changes to pupil behaviour rather than recording all the instances of unwanted or unacceptable behaviour.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2011

About the author: Dave Stott has 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools, and Local Authority behaviour support services. Dave is now a writer, consultant and trainer.