The WHS grading system with the EFFORT grade was unusual if not unique in my later experience as a teacher in England, France, Germany, Gabon and Japan, but was it in fact common at the time in other similar schools: Framlingham, Wymondham, Culford, Colchester - Eton etc? And as a parent, which would have pleased you more: 1E or 5A? I wonder if EITHER grade was ever awarded? Did this system continue until 1990? Probably not PC today!
But writing comments on pupils' work is far from easy. The main problem is how much use to make of euphemisms, or in other words how truthful one should be. It is pretty clear that:
"Could try harder." really means "Lazy little sod.". Then there is the familiar: "Tries his best." which simultaneously tells us nothing and everything. And then does one adjust the brutal honesty of one's comments to suit the individual pupil? Basher Thump might survive: "His work is invariably as shoddy and disorganised as his clothing and persona." whereas Maisie Snowflake's psyche might be irremediably damaged by it.
It also works the other way round. Critical remarks by teacher A might be laughed off as produced by a known pillock, whereas the same remarks from universally-respected teacher B would be a shock. Then there are the remarks which taken literally are almost meaningless, such as: "Could do better with more effort." ... which applies to just about everyone in any subject, or is it yet another euphemisim for "Lazy little sod."?
Another reason for avoiding comments is that some teachers rival doctors in the illegibility of their handwriting - but like many doctors they seem unaware of that, or if they ARE aware of it then don't care about it! With computers ubiquitous these days that is an avoidable problem, though the personal touch is lost.
Many schools (including most abroad) avoid comments altogether for these very reasons. I do not at this time know how long WHS maintained the grading and report procedures in place when I was there from 1958 to 1965. Someone might kindly inform us!
IMHO, the main thing with reports as far as pupils are concerned is that comments should be FAIR and MERITED, and I think we all have at an early age a natural and deep sense of fairness. I personally found all my teachers' comments to be fair - except one. Pop Corner once said in a third-year report that I was "complacent". Once I had looked it up and knew what it meant I was rather disappointed, since I felt that I always tried hard and contributed well in his classes - which I loved BTW. Still, if that was the only thing I had to complain abut then I was perhaps lucky. On the other hand, some comments I treasure to this day:
Here are a few more true comments found on WHS reports:
... plus a few others made up, some of which one might have liked to use but never dared!
"His best is invariably worse than anyone else's worst."
"His remarkable ability to act like a clown in school should stand him in good stead in his future circus career."
"He has made an invaluable contribution to this year's class - which leads one to hope that in some distant future he may well make a valuable one."
"His rendering of Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' soliloquy in a broad Yorkshire accent managed to fuse Shakespearean tragedy and comedy into one unforgettable experience that had the audience in stitches."
"After listening to his rendering of Hamlet's 'To be or not to be' soliloquy the class finally realised he full meaning of the word 'comedy'".
"He follows most classroom rules, though not - unfortunately - the one about not setting fire to the waste-paper basket."
"She needs to work harder on using respectful and kind language with peers and teachers. The words 'Bollocks to that you cretinous pillock.', 'Stuff it, Fatso.' and 'Oh F*** it - not old Farty again!' are particularly to be avoided."
“For this pupil, all ages are dark.”
"Mandy is an example to us all, though unfortunately not a good one."
“The tropical forests are safe when John enters the woodwork room, for his projects are small and his progress is slow.’
"Has the concentration span of a senile goldfish taking a siesta."
"I've seen headless chickens running round farmyards which talked more sense."
"New information sticks in his brain about as well as water on cold teflon.”
“His self-confidence is not based on any convincing evidence of success in any field whatsoever."
"Mark's efforts were inconsistent until mid-year, when they ceased completely."
"His proficiency in geography seems to be limited to being able to find his own way home."
"The only time we get anything done in class is when your son is absent - or asleep. Fortunately, that is quite often."
And are report comments really much use at all? Here are some true ones made about famous people!
‘Stephen has glaring faults and they have certainly glared at us this term.’ (Stephen Fry)
‘Jilly has set herself an extremely low standard, which she has failed to maintain.’ (Jilly Cooper)
‘He is a constant trouble to everybody and is always in some scrape or other. He cannot be trusted to behave himself anywhere.’ (Winston Churchill)
‘Certainly on the road to failure … hopeless … rather a clown in class … wasting other pupils’ time.’ (John Lennon)
‘He must devote less of his time to sport if he wants to be a success. You can’t make a living out of football.’ (Gary Lineker)
‘It would seem that Briers thinks he is running the school and not me. If this attitude persists, one of us will have to leave.’ (Richard Briers)
‘He will either go to prison or become a millionaire.’ (Sir Richard Branson)
‘He will never amount to anything.’ (Albert Einstein)
‘A persistent muddler. Vocabulary negligible, sentences malconstructed. He reminds me of a camel.’ (Roald Dahl)
‘Off you go and I am glad to get rid of you.’ ( Laurie Lee)