Thousands of ‘lazy’ teachers are paying artificial intelligence computer software to write their end-of-year school reports for them, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
More than 1,000 primary and secondary school teachers have already signed up to use Real Fast Reports, which creates a ‘totally personalised and unique’ report for each pupil at the touch of a button.
It costs just £10 a year to use the service, which was launched by two former teachers last year.
The company boasts its software saves teachers ‘countless hours writing thousands of reports’ by producing statements ‘in fluent prose, inserting the student’s name and gender pronouns automatically’.
All teachers have to do is put in a few bullet points of information about a student to create each report.
More than 1,000 primary and secondary school teachers have already signed up to use Real Fast Reports (stock image)
The AI software allows teachers to write bullet points about each pupil, which are then used to make a polished school report
Furious MPs and parenting groups last night criticised the use of AI in producing school reports, which are one of the few opportunities families have to check how their child is doing in class.
It comes amid growing anger at a series of teaching strikes which have forced classrooms to close and lessons to be missed.
‘Parents are being short-changed and treated with contempt,’ said Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign For Real Education. ‘AI-generated reports are a lazy and deceitful cop-out which, along with strikes, brings the profession into further disrepute.’
Parenting campaign group Us For Them said: ‘Children are expected to deliver individually prepared homework without the help of AI. It shouldn’t be too much for parents to expect the same of schools.’
In years gone by report cards would be handwritten and give detailed descriptions of each pupil’s progress – and some of their shortcomings.
But in recent decades they have become increasingly formulaic, leading to suspicion that some teachers simply ‘cut and paste’ impersonal paragraphs from child to child. Some teachers have admitted using ChatGPT to write pupil reports. The software can turn two sentences into a polished 250-word report.
But Real Fast Reports, founded by Peter Gravell and Angela Newton, claims to produce reports with a ‘personal touch’.
In years gone by report cards would be handwritten and give detailed descriptions of each pupil’s progress – and some of their shortcomings
A Mail on Sunday reporter signed up for a free trial with the company, and typed ‘enthusiastic, good reading results, helpful, spelling needs work’ into the software. The slick report it produced said: ‘Jane is an enthusiastic student in English. She achieved good results in her reading test, but her spelling needs improvement. Jane is a helpful student who is always willing to assist her classmates.’
Mr Gravell told The Mail on Sunday that he believed his technology produced better school reports than many pupils currently got.
He said: ‘Some teachers just write three reports per class – one good, one medium, one bad – and then copy and paste for the whole class and change the names.
‘As experienced teachers and parents, we understand the concerns about AI potentially short-changing families and producing formulaic or bland reports. However, our service balances the efficiency of AI with the personal touch that only a teacher can provide.
‘Teachers say that writing in bullet points forces them to think more carefully about the feedback they provide.
‘Real Fast Reports is a far superior alternative to bulk copying and pasting, which some time-pressured teachers may resort to when writing reports.’
He added that it was also a ‘tremendous help’ to teachers with dyslexia or those who do not speak English as a first language.
Industrial action on Thursday will see schools close across England, depriving millions of children of yet another day of schooling. It follows two strike days last term. A further shutdown is planned on May 2 in the dispute about pay.
Britain and its values can lead the world in the AI revolution
By Michelle Donelan, Science Secretary
Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer a sci-fi fantasy. It is real, a part of our lives, and is here to stay. Solutions to some of our greatest challenges – many of which were once thought impossible – are now within reach. Many of us will likely live to see a cure for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s thanks to AI. Our children’s talents will be discovered and nurtured through personalised AI-supported education in schools. And everything from agriculture to law enforcement will become more efficient, effective and affordable as AI products solve problems for us.
But the warnings about the potential risks are credible and must be heeded. We must put AI safety and reliability first, so we can confidently capture its incredible benefits. Furthermore, we cannot pretend that AI is not a threat in the wrong hands. Some states around the world will undoubtedly seek to monopolise its use for menacing purposes, or to further the goals of authoritarianism. If we want AI to be safe and to work for humanity rather than against it, we must inject our western, British values into its development from the start.
MICHELLE DONELAN: Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer a sci-fi fantasy. It is real, a part of our lives, and is here to stay
In our White Paper last month, we set out our country’s approach to AI, founded on five key principles that we will enforce on to all AI uses: safety, transparency, fairness, accountability and redress. Together, these will ensure that AI reflects our principles from the off – no ifs, no buts. By doing so, we not only put ourselves in contention to lead the world in safety, we also give AI companies the certainty and the clarity they need to invest in the UK.
Estimates suggest that AI will add trillions of dollars to the global economy over the next decade – which means high-paying jobs, stronger public services and a better quality of life for us all. The question for the UK is: how much of that potential do we want to seize? How ambitious should a country such as ours be? Our answer is simple: the UK plans to become a world superpower in safe AI.
Investment in British AI firms has increased by a factor of ten in just six years. Last month we announced a new £900 million supercomputer that will put Britain at the cutting edge of AI development. However, I firmly believe we need a revolutionary approach if we are to succeed in our mission.
The Vaccine Taskforce showed during Covid what we are capable of when we allow our brightest minds to solve a problem.
Tomorrow, we are announcing more detail on the new Foundation Models Taskforce aimed at ensuring that the UK becomes a global leader in safe AI. We are not rushing to put rigid laws in place which could quickly become out of date and make it harder to keep the UK on the cutting edge of tech. Thanks to Brexit we can take an approach which encourages British firms to innovate responsibly with AI, instead of bogging them down in bureaucracy.
Britain does best when it leads and sees the potential for good in a new technology. We did it with everything from the steam engine to the worldwide web – revolutionary technologies that helped reshape our world for the better.
When it comes to AI, we must step up and ensure our values, our regulation and our know-how is what guides the world toward the safe use of AI that will benefit us all.