Report-Writing Nightmares: Become More Efficient and Save Time

Updated May 2021

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

The student names contained within this article are entirely fictional. Any similarity to an actual person’s name is purely coincidental. 

A well-written school report can provide a student with useful feedback, great encouragement and even a stern call-to-action.

Despite their usefulness, however, school reports can be an absolute nightmare for the teachers who have to write them!

walking around wt laptop

As teachers we are constantly juggling multiple tasks at the same time. If it’s not lesson planning, then it’s marking. If it’s not marking, it’s teaching. If it’s not teaching, then it’s meetings and professional development. If it’s not that it’s student mentoring and tutoring.

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Report-writing can come up at any point during these foregoing activities, and we just have to, well; get on with it. For many teachers this means very late nights and sacrificed weekends: often with little sleep.

This article aims to give some easy-to-implement tips that will help us write good-quality reports in as little time as possible.

#1 – Remember S.W.A.P.

Every report should contain these four elements (at the very least):

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses (including targets)
  • Attainment
  • Progress

They don’t necessarily have to be in that order, but they should all be present somewhere.

work overload

#2 – Create a S.W.A.P. template

A good template can save you tons of time, and will ensure that your reports are detailed and accurate. I’ve given an example with applications below. Please feel free to copy and paste and use this as you see fit:

x has had a disappointing/steady/good/very good term/half-term/year/semester. He/She has shown strengths in a number of areas including……………………….. . This is pleasing, but even further progress could be made by………………………………. x’s most recent assessment score was ……………., which indicates to me that……………………….. Progress has been disappointing/steady/good/very good, as exemplified by the fact that………………… 

Let’s see this in action below:

Example 1: An excellent student

Joshua has had a very good half-term. He has shown strengths in a number of areas including modular arithmetic, definite and indefinite integration and differentiation. This is pleasing, but even further progress could be made by completing more of the Higher Level assigned tasks on MyiMaths, as he does have the ability to challenge himself further. Joshua’s most recent assessment score was 83%, which indicates to me that he is completing the necessary revision at home. Progress has been very good, as exemplified by the fact that he has jumped from a level 6 to a level 7 in the space of just seven weeks.  

Example 2: An average student

Lisa has had a steady half-term. She has shown strengths in a number of areas including balancing chemical equations and completing laboratory practical work. This is pleasing, but even further progress could be made by completing more practice questions on Quantitative Chemistry and using the model answers as a good guide for improvement.  Lisa’s most recent assessment score was 54%, which indicates to me that she has a good knowledge of some areas of the subject, but needs to work harder to revise identified weaknesses. Progress has been steady, as exemplified by the fact that Lisa’s assessment scores have been consistently above 50% since the start of the course. 

#3 – Store and use your old reports

Keep copies of all the reports you write on a hard disc drive or usb/flash drive, or perhaps even on a cloud-based system like Google Drive. You’ll find that similar student ‘types’ come up every year, and you can simply copy, paste and modify old reports to match new students. 

This is guaranteed to save you oodles of time! Just make sure you modify well: reports still need to contain the personal touch. 


#4 – Use report comment banks

There are some great report-building websites available online. In just a few clicks you can create detailed and well-phrased reports that will deliver all of the information you need to get across.

Check out these great sites:

Recommended further reading

Check out these great books! Just click on the book image to take you to the Amazon sales page.

Writing Effective Report Card Comments by Kathleen Crane and Kathleen Law (Teacher Created Resources – they do a great teacher planner too! Check out my blog post here for that)

Writing Effective Report Card Comments

This book is simply filled to the brim with great phrases you can use for students at all stages of school education. My advice: buy this book, type all the comments into a doc and copy and paste them for your reports as needed. 

Teachers’ Messages for Report Cards by Marie McDonald and Katherine Ruggieri-Vesey

Teachers Messages for Report Cards

This is another brilliant book that serves well as a standalone guide or as a compliment to the ideas explored in Writing Effective Report Card Comments. McDonald and Ruggieri-Vesey really put the fun back into report writing by showing you strategies and phrases that will save you time whilst enjoying the process of report construction. 



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High School Science and Mathematics Teacher, Author and Blogger. Graduated from Bangor University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Molecular Biology and a PGCE in Secondary Science Education. Richard also holds the coveted Certificate in Mathematics from the Open University (UK). Richard is the award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know

3 thoughts on “Report-Writing Nightmares: Become More Efficient and Save Time

  1. Also worth trying, SchoolReportWriter.COM, highly rated teacher reports app. It’s free and works online. Worth noting: now that TES has announced the closure of Report Comment Bank (.co .uk), School Report Writer can convert their comments for you and also any comments you have from the old Teachers Report Assistant app. It also has an advanced gender neutral option and there are 50k free report comments for ideas that you can download.

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