School reports are a traditional part of school life. Teachers spend hours writing them, students receive them with excitement (or dread!), and parents read them to find out how their child – and the school itself – is performing.
It’s important for the reports to be in good shape when they go out to students and their parents. They need to convey information clearly and accurately, to present a professional image of the school, and to give parents and students the confidence that the school is providing high-quality education. They also serve as a permanent record of individual results and progress that the school can refer to in the future.
There are some things that just have to be right:
There are other things that might need to be corrected, depending on the school’s style preferences (a style guide will help with this). Here are just a few of them:
That’s a lot of things to check! And because student reports are such an important part of a school’s communication process, it’s essential to have a second pair of eyes to make sure everything’s correct.
There are a couple of different approaches. Some schools have a member of staff whose job it is to read all the reports before they’re issued. The advantage is that they’re on hand to proofread whenever required, and they have inside knowledge of the school’s activities.
Other schools choose to use an external professional proofreader – someone who has the time and expertise to check all aspects of the reports according to the school’s schedule. Proofreaders apply their professional skills and experience to the task, including using various tools to improve accuracy and consistency. They can dedicate time to the reports, rather than fitting them in around other school duties. Working closely with a school, they’ll quickly become familiar with the requirements, while remaining objective. They can also help the school to develop a style guide if one doesn’t already exist.
If you’d like to find out more about how professional proofreaders work with a school, you can read this personal account of a successful proofreading partnership.
I love working alone. I really do. Yes, I enjoy liaising with clients and colleagues – both online and in person – but most of the time there’s just me, on my own, focusing on a piece of work for a specific client.
After many years of solitary toil, though, I’ve rediscovered the joys of working closely with another person on a particular project. A couple of years ago I began proofreading student reports for a school. The work was enjoyable – and very different from the material I usually work on – but the deadlines were tight (and non-negotiable). The summer report schedule was particularly punishing, and I realised in advance that I wouldn’t be able to fulfil it on my own.
Fortunately, fellow SfEP member Laura Ripper was willing to take on some of the school proofreading. And the rest, as they say, is History (plus Geography, French and Computer Studies).
I needed someone who was highly competent, and who could grasp the system I’d already set up (including dealing with the slight complication of having the text supplied in Excel). Laura came on board, quickly picked up what was required, and took to it like a duck to water. She also made some excellent suggestions on how we could improve our working methods, something that I really appreciated.
Laura and I now share the reports throughout the year, including the busy summer period. We’ve developed a number of clean-up routines that we carry out before and after proofreading, using find and replace, spellcheck and tools such as PerfectIt and macros. We focus on style points such as initial capitals on subject names, punctuation preferences and the names of extra-curricular clubs and activities. We look out for commonly confused words (flare/flair, practice/practise, rigor/rigour). We check the spelling of student names and make sure the full name is used (no nicknames or shortened forms). And during the proofreading itself we check the usual things – spelling, grammar, punctuation – but also query anything that seems amiss.
Together we keep the style sheet up to date and customise PerfectIt to meet our proofreading requirements. When working on the reports we email each other throughout the day to discuss style points, and sometimes to alert one another to specific recurring errors in a particular teacher’s reports.
Of course, emails sometimes also stray into very important non-work areas. What’s for dinner? Will there be time for a brisk walk today? Any plans for the weekend? It’s all part of working closely with a colleague, albeit at a distance.
It’s good to be able to make joint decisions and to keep each other up to date with progress. I retain overall control of the project (I subcontract the work to Laura), mainly to make it easier for the client, who’s very happy with this arrangement.
So all in all, it’s been a very positive experience. I’d give it 10 out of 10.