One of the issues that crops up regularly in school reports – and something that is sure to annoy parents – is the appearance of the wrong name, or an incorrectly spelled name.
When teachers are writing a large number of student reports under pressure of time, it’s inevitable that mistakes will happen, especially if standard phrases are being repeated in different students’ reports. I’m sure this isn’t just a ‘cut and paste’ issue either – even back in the days of hand-written reports, it would have been almost impossible to guarantee 100% accuracy and consistency in names and their spellings.
The most obvious problem occurs when a student’s report contains another student’s name, and perhaps not even a student of the same gender. But there are other issues that need to be considered, even if the correct name is used:
These issues can be difficult to spot. Teachers working on a stack of reports to a tight deadline might not notice a ‘Julia’ in Tom’s Chemistry report. They might not check whether Tom should really be ‘Thomas’. They might not wonder whether all the other teachers used Tom’s full name (or even ‘Tommy’). And they probably won’t have the chance to read their colleagues’ reports for each student, so it’ll be more difficult to identify inconsistencies.
Someone reading all the subject reports for each student will have a better chance of seeing inconsistencies. For a start, they’re more likely to notice if the wrong name has been used. Different spellings of a student’s name will be easier to spot. And checking for shortened forms or other variants will be more straightforward.
Depending on the format of the reports – whether, for example, they’re being read on screen, in a particular software package or on paper – the only way to reduce the number of errors and inconsistencies may be to proofread very carefully. The more pairs of eyes that look at the reports, the less likely it is that errors in students’ names will slip through the net. It’s certainly useful to be aware of the types of things you need to be looking out for, and I hope the examples above will help.
If it’s possible to view the reports in Microsoft Word (even if it means exporting them from another platform), there are some useful techniques that can be used to check for consistency. Here are a couple of tools we’ve found useful:
But there’s no substitute for careful proofreading, alongside a style guide that sets out the school’s approach to student names. It’s the best way of ensuring that everything’s correct, from Amelia, Amelie and Amalia right through to Zachary, Zachariah and Zack.