How to Read a School Report

Research has shown that the more actively parents participate in a child’s education, the better that child will do.  But don’t panic, you don’t have to actually understand the work your child is doing!  Just turning up at their school, for any event, has a positive impact on their work motivation.  Whilst you might not need to brush up on algebra, you should learn to read your child’s report.

Start by having a conversation with your child about what their career hopes are.  Do some research together about pathways to the careers your child is interested in.  If your child is in Gr 9, they will be doing this anyway as part of the Life Orientation curriculum.  Find out what sort of results your child needs to go on to the tertiary study or learnerships relevant for this career.  Arrange for your child to do work shadows as a way of test driving various options.

School reports in terms 1 & 3 are based on assessment tasks which may include tests.  Projects may be group work or individual.  Principals often note that marks may be unusually higher or lower than usual in these terms, due to the assessments done.  For example – if your child is in a group on a project that does not complete the task, the mark will be low.

School reports in terms 2 & 4 are mostly based on exams.  These are generally seen as the more accurate reflection of results.  The term 4 final report is usually a summary mark for the year with the heaviest weighting on term 4.  For example Term 1, 2 & 3 may contribute to 25% of the final report for the year.  The final report will state whether the learner is passing to the next grade.   For entry to many careers, a pass is not sufficient.  Let’s understand what a pass means.

In Gr 8 & 9 learners need to achieve the following ratings to pass:

  • English: At least 50%, or code 4
  • Afrikaans: At least 40%, or code 3
  • Maths: At least 40%, or code 3
  • Three of the remaining subjects at 40%, code 3
  • Two of the remaining subjects at 30%, code 2

In Gr 10,11 and 12 learners need to achieve the following to pass:

  • Three subjects at 40% – one of which must be English
  • Three other subjects at 30%

As you can see, if you are happy with report saying “Pass, promoted to the next grade”, you will be celebrating a very low level of achievement.  Children are generally very happy to meet their parent’s expectations.  If your only expectation is that your child will pass, there is a chance that this is all your child will do, even if he or she could do more!

If you want more for your child than just passing school then use the conversations about career aims to set realistic results goals.  Look for careers that your child can enter that are not more than 15% above your child’s current grades.  Aim to improve by a few % points each term until the marks reach the ultimate goal.   Understand that school performance is reflected in school reports and is used to determine whether your child can go on to the hoped for career.

If your child is hoping to go to university, what should you look for in the school report?

As a bare minimum, your child must achieve a Bachelor Pass which means a rating of 50%, code 4, in four subjects, including English and excluding Life Orientation and other non-designated subjects plus a 30% pass in any three other subjects. A Bachelor pass will give you entry to many courses at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT).  A pass average of 60% will give you entry to many courses at University of the Western Cape.  A pass average of 70% will give you entry to many courses at Stellenbosch University and University of Cape Town.  Each university has it’s own way of calculating entry scores and you should check specific admissions requirements for the course your child is interested in.


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