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Marking: Thank you Ofsted. Let’s hope SLT listen


Yesterday I saw a tweet about marking which definitely made me happy.  It cited Ofsted’s school Inspection Update Issue 8  and was written by National Director of Education, Sean Harford.

He referred to  the Teacher Workload Review Group on Marking (March 2016)  and the Education Endowment Foundation (April 2016) which both reported on marking and its impact.

Harford wrote: ‘there is remarkably little high quality, relevant research evidence to suggest that detailed or extensive marking has any significant impact on pupils’ learning.’

At last! Thank you Ofsted.

Let’s hope that, like normal SLTs, especially those running scared of Ofsted will do the right thing and listen to the inspectors.

For far too long many SLTs have been insisting that teachers mark work in detail, giving comments for improvement.

Children then respond to these comments in the next lesson – this can take between 5 and 30 minutes of lesson time for each class, and God only knows how many hours of teacher evening, after school, weekend time.

Apparently this raises standards.

At a recent course I ran, I half jokingly asked people to raise their hands if they had to mark work in one colour and have pupils respond in another. The whole room raised their hands, and they were not smiling. Instead the room was full of knowing faces.

Schools across the land are asking teachers to spend hours and hours marking work in detail in green pen. Why? They think Ofsted are looking for it. They think that when Mr or Mrs Ofsted inspector look in books, this ‘conversation’ between teacher and student proves standards are being raised.

I’m not convinced by this read and respond marking. I do think it works for many, but the weaker sometimes do not have the literacy skills to really move on to the next level.  I have often seen comments from weaker kids in books saying, ‘ok’, ‘thank you’ but no real improvement.

Perhaps the real reason behind SLT’s liking of such marking is that this coloured conversation in books is easy peasy to monitor. You look in set of books and see reams of green marking and red pen pupil responses. Great – impact they think. Wrong! Impact is about raising standards.

This takes hours of teacher time. And the DIRT time takes up hours of curriculum time that could be spent actually teaching kids to stuff!

I recently worked at a school where this was the case. The SLT were monitoring mad and teachers were under pressure to do everything that they asked (which didn’t really include planning quality lessons).

Work scrutiny, data analysis, writing objectives on the board in a certain style, and coloured marking. Reams and reams of it.

I quickly came to conclusion that if all of that effort was really worth it, results would have shifted.

But they didn’t – they got worse.

So why keep doing something that doesn’t work?

When I was an Inspector/Adviser I was trained to evaluate the quality of the interventions that took place. If you try something and doesn’t work, change it, try something new – find the interventions that really work.

Here at History Resource Cupboard we are not anti marking. We do believe in quality marking. We believe in marking the end products with bespoke mark-schemes.

We do not believe in the monster that marking has become.  I have blogged about this craziness before.

Surely  teachers should be spending time planning and teaching quality lessons that promote higher order thinking and help kids get better at the subject we all love.  Only then can you really assess how well the students have done  and work out how best to help them improve over the long term.

If you want to know how to approach marking, read Ian Luff’s article in TH164

So thank you Ofsted – now perhaps SLT will listen?



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About the author
Richard McFahn
Founder of History Resource Cupboard, Richard has worked for 20 years as a history teacher, subject and senior leader, Advanced Skills Teacher, local authority adviser and history ITE tutor.

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