International school suzhou interpreting the senior school assessment reports


In light of the release of our students’ assessment reports for the academic term, Mrs Julie Mackie, Deputy Head of Senior School provides her advice to our parent community below. With 21 years of overseas experience at British international schools in Thailand, Saudi Arabia, China, Bahrain and Singapore, Mrs Mackie has been a Senior Leader for 15 years as Deputy Head, Assistant Head and IB Diploma Coordinator across different schools.


Q1: Our Assessment Reports come out on Friday. Do you have any advice or suggestions to give to our Senior School parents, about how they should understand and interpret the reports?

It is a good idea to take half an hour or so to sit with your child and read through the report together. Students may be able to help explain to you as parents what the individual subject comment refers to and how the grade has been awarded, for example. A good activity is to look for recurring themes in the Targets that can then form a focus.

We have very hard-working students at the College: it is important to acknowledge their achievements and praise students for their efforts, especially when they have worked to the best of their ability. Students do not want to disappoint their parents and can feel under pressure at report time, so please be mindful of this.

If there is anything on the report that you or your child are not clear about, make a note and bring your query along to the Parent Teacher Conference (PTC) meetings next week.


Q2: Are there any misunderstandings you think our parents could have, by reading the reports? 

It is important to understand the different terms on the reports and what they mean. The Target Grade is an aspirational grade which has been determined through negotiation between the students and their teachers. The purpose of any target grade is for students to take more ownership of their learning and set realistic, yet challenging goals for their studies. 

The Attainment Grade is different. In Year 11 and 13, where the students are approaching the formal examination session in Summer 2021, this grade shows what the teacher expects the student is most likely to achieve in these final examinations, based on all the evidence the teacher has so far, including the students’ performance in the November Mock examinations.

In all other Year groups, the Attainment Grade shows the students’ current level in relation to the criteria that they are being evaluated against. In Key Stage 3 (Years 7-9) this is the Dulwich Attainment Grade; in Key Stage 4 (Years 10-11) this is the IGCSE examination grade and in Key Stage 5 (Years 12-13) this is the IB grade. This Attainment Grade allows us to track student progress throughout the Key Stage. 

Parents and students in Years 7, 8, 10 and 12 should not be surprised if the Attainment Grade is lower that the Target Grade, as we naturally expect the grades to increase as students progress through their key Stage.


Q3:  Next week we will have the Parent Teacher Conference meetings. Why do we emphasise it is important to encourage the students to participate?

I mentioned before the idea of students taking ownership for their learning: this is a crucial part of the student’s experience.

We want them to be able to articulate what they have learned, how they learn best and what they are finding challenging. Being able to reflect on this helps them become more involved and more independent, so we must give them the opportunity to discuss their learning with their teachers, both in the classroom and at a parent teacher conference meeting. Our students are at the heart of these discussions, so it is important to encourage them to take part.


Q4: Next week will be our final week of the Term. Do you have any final suggestions for parents to support their children at Senior School to have a quality holiday?

This has been a long 17-week term and our students, who often have long and busy days, need to take a break to refresh and recharge their batteries. Many families would usually go away for these holidays, and of course most of us will be staying in China this year, so as parents we need to think about how our children can make the most of this three week holiday.

Make sure they have the time to catch up on sleep, spend quality time with family and friends and have some unstructured time when they can relax. For our children who are at the young age, unstructured time is equally important compared with structured time.

Encourage them to also do something active. Our older students may like to de-stress by going to the gym or doing some yoga. Naturally, our examination classes will need to devote some time to their studies, but they should not spend all-day every day studying, as this is very unhealthy and will just cause them to burn out. The three-week holiday can give them the chance to catch up and review work as well as complete set assignments.

In summary, effective learning needs a lot of brain power, so we want to see them back in January feeling rejuvenated, happy and ready for the term ahead.