‘Oh marking, marking, wherefore art thou marking’

Picture1I have just read a brilliant and refreshing post by Pragmatic Education entitled ‘Marking is a hornet’. I agree with the thought process entirely around this very (now) emotive subject for teachers across the UK. However, I do feel that two major ingredients are liable for the chosen strategy and approach that senior leaders may take; context and the head teachers.
online marking articlesThis is what happens when you type in ‘marking, feedback and progress over time. There is a movement out there towards the eradication of unnecessary workload driven by an agenda to have every book in the country marked ‘how Ofsted’ would like. Perhaps here is a good place to remind us all what Ofsted actually say:

ofsted marking sept 2015

Schools have to rethink whether or not their activities are in the best interest of the students in their care or not but would it not also make sense to guarantee the wellbeing and emotional and physical capacity of the ones to enable that to happen, the teachers?

who likes marking

I am certain that any other readers of said article right now are either in a position of thought which says ‘now why doesn’t our senior leadership team take this approach?’ or ‘how can I convey the contents of this article in the best way, and sell it so our school moves towards this framework for ‘not’ marking and feedback and yet still make rapid gains for all stakeholders?’ It is true that marking pleases the least, the people who have to engage with it the most, teachers and students. Parents love marking, it shows that their child has had a few seconds, if not minutes of undivided teacher attention and highlights the errors or areas to improve that they could not possibly find the time to investigate let alone discuss with their children, sometimes after a hard day’s work or even just due to the level of academic challenge in some cases. SLT like marking because it shows that teachers are obedient, they are following protocol and they are giving the magic word… everyone say it altogether now, feedback. Ofsted, love marking, or as they term it ‘high quality written guidance’ as it shows them what best practice looks like so they can then tell one poor school with hard-working teachers what this high quality written guidance ought to look like.

Well I say, good for you Michaela school. I am sure you are setting the right tone and culture by having your position clearly written and framed around the school so that when our friends with the big ‘O’ do visit, they will see the implementation of your practice and hopefully the huge gains in student progress as well as staff well-being and ultimately, efficiency and effectiveness.

Context: when you are a school which is RI and Ofsted are due to call any second this makes this bold move rather tenuous.

I remember about a year ago reading also a post by @teachertoolkit deputy headteacher who quoted  @MrLockyer who said; “marking is broken” in an article entitled the ‘Marking Frenzy’. Teachers are in a marking frenzy but little argument can be found here when  evidence suggests that feedback features as the largest effect size on impact on student learning. So does this in turn translate equally into the number one use of teacher time? I am not so sure.

Influence Effect Size Source of Influence
Feedback 1.13 Teacher
Student’s prior cognitive ability 1.04 Student
Remediation/feedback .65 Teacher
Challenge of Goals .52 Teacher
Questioning .41 Teacher

This is further compounded by the statement in the teacher’s standards, teachers standards for feedbackwhich brings me to the head teacher. It would be a dream to announce to the teachers in my school, “no more marking everybody, we will simply use the tools we have online and in lessons to provide regular and high quality feedback to students and make sure they respond to this’. The key issue is consistency. Ensuring that the quality of this delivery and use of various strategies for feedback would need to be consistent and make an equal measure of positive impact on every learner. Of course it can be written into policy and even posted around the school but this does not translate automatically into practice but would take time. Time which an RI school does not have. It would take a very brave and courageous step from the HT, who is probably nervous at an impending inspection any minute, to allow this to happen at such a time. One could also say it would take a certain amount of trust.

So it looks like this nirvana of ‘no marking of books’ can be something for my school to aspire to for the future. It would be interesting to know what other RI schools would do.

For now, let’s get back to the joy of marking!



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