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Processes for reporting in plain language

As teachers are aware, building strong partnerships with students’ parents, families and whānau helps them to be more involved in their children’s learning, which in turn helps children with their learning.

Reporting in plain language helps parents, families and whānau to be clear about where their children are, how to support their learning and to be aware of any problems early.

Plain language reporting (whether written or spoken) should:

  • be concise
  • clearly outline a child's progress and achievement
  • be free of complex and unnecessary educational jargon
  • use language that parents, families, whānau and students can easily understand.

Why report in plain language?

Reporting on how children are doing and where they need to get to helps their parents, families and whānau to support them. This is best done in plain language that everyone understands.

If students are able to understand their reports, then parents, family, and whānau will too, and students will be able to talk to their families and whānau about how they are doing and what help they need from home. Benefits for reporting in plain language include being able to:

  • help parents, families, and whānau to feel more informed about their children’s education, more confident in communicating with schools, and more able to play a proactive role in their children’s learning
  • build more effective home-school relationships, so students feel more supported and confident about being able to reach their learning goals
  • lessen the proportion of time spent explaining unfamiliar terms and the meaning of reports to parents, families, and whānau
  • focus formal and informal discussions with parents, families and whānau, and students on working together to help students reach their learning goals
  • help students to understand where they are and where they need to be, and to talk confidently about their progress and achievement in learning – particularly when they are active participants in the assessment and reporting process.

What schools can do to support teachers to report in plain language

Schools should discuss reporting in plain language so that teachers develop a shared understanding and expectations of the way plain language reporting will be achieved.

Teachers could identify exemplar "plain language" written reports across the school, and have them readily available to share and discuss with colleagues.

School leaders could observe teachers when they report to parents, families, and whānau and give advice in areas they feel less confident in. This also helps with developing greater consistency in reporting across the school.

School leaders could have discussions with their students’ parents, families, and whānau and get their views about what is easy and hard to understand so that the school and teachers can build this into their understanding of effective plain language reporting.

Greater student participation in the reporting process (for example, student-led conferences) helps keep the language simple and easy to understand.

Tips for writing in plain language:

  • Keep words, sentences, and paragraphs short and simple. Bullet points work well for clarity.
  • Encourage student comments in reports.
  • Leave out anything that is not relevant to the student or their parents, family, and whānau.
  • Use a summary sentence to get to the point first, then explain in more detail.
  • Use language that is familiar and easy for all students, parents, family, and whānau to understand.
  • When explaining a learning process, use actual examples where practical.
  • Avoid jargon where possible. If you feel there are terms that parents, families, and whānau need to know, then explain what they mean every time.
  • Be personal: use "I", "my", "their", "her/he", "you".
  • For assessment results – give clear final results and ensure parents, family, and whānau understand what it means in terms of their child’s learning.