Marking work every lesson – should we bother?


Actually, it’s not every lesson. I’m trialling a system of marking books every time students use them. The difference is that they don’t use them formally every lesson.

I tweeted this in the week and a couple of Tweeters were vociferous  in their disagreement, so I thought I’d explain what I’m doing and what I believe to be the benefits.

Firstly I have a confession to make that will probably make you sick or stop reading this blog post…



Why have I started this?

Two of the best teachers I’ve known in my career were those that did this. I used to watch my colleague every morning with piles of books, marking diligently. They are both History teachers so their mark load is one of the most in terms of amount of classes and amount of written work to mark. They also have little/no behaviour management issues, great relationships with students and excellent results ( Not saying I don’t!).

When you have other responsibilities in school, the core basics of planning & marking seem to often come last. In my new job I am determined to prioritise and these will be at the fore of my day-to-day teaching.

My plan

I teach 18 classes. At KS4 we have reduced curriculum time so I’m not using books but one piece of A3 for the term to which we add views each lesson. This is separate from my GCSE class who have books/folders.

I have a multi colour process ( the colours are not significant, they’re the cheapest colours to buy!).

  • my marking = pink/purple
  • self/peer marking = red
  • improvements = green

These stand out from the writing colours of blue/black/pencil. In the centre of each table is a pot of red and green biros ready for them to use.

I mark for SPAG & presentation

Notes get a SPAG/presentation check and a stamper ‘Work checked by Miss Cox’

Independent written work has a WWW/EBI format to feedback including SPAG/presentation. Some of it may be levelled ( we’re still using levels at the moment).

Some work will be peer marked. They swap and mark in red using very specific criteria for the piece and WWW/EBI. If they haven’t I send it back to the peer to change. I then use the ‘Work checked by Miss Cox’ stamp and the ‘Peer assessed’ Stamp. If I disagree with anything or need to add I do this after the peer feedback.

Some will be self marked with WWW/EBI & reflection and the process above used.

Some work is assessment work where we have to use a large orange sticker to feedback. It essentially incorporates WWW/EBI/level/SPAG.

Every lesson whilst I’m doing the register and sometimes for longer students must ‘green pen’ their work. It’s mostly putting a capital G on ‘God’ but I expect them to address every aspect where there is my pink writing.

The process so far

I’ve really enjoyed being in control of my marking load and knowing that when I give the books back to students they’re up-to-date. Last week I made an error in my marking planning and had to bring two sets of marking home at the weekend that I propose not to do again! I have marked before school, break time, lunch time, when a DVD is on ( in between pausing and asking student questions) and after school.

Tips & ways to manage

  • Buy stampers. I have many stampers, some of which are personalised so they say exactly what I need, including using GCSE mark scheme language.
  • My favourite stamper is ‘Work checked by Miss Cox’
  • Consider your time at school & your work/life balance. Are you being efficient with your time?
  • Marking one page of work is quicker than three. The more it builds up the longer it takes, the longer it takes the more you’re put off by the pile.
  • Plan lessons with no/little writing – This could be display work, discussion, group work, rough notes ( back of book – not marked) etc
  • Plan so all assessments aren’t done by all classes in the same week
  • Use peer/self assessment with caution. It must be effective for it to be valuable.

My opinion of the benefits

So these are my views. You could argue that these are false causes but I believe they have had impact. I can’t wait for official studies and effect sizes to tell me otherwise.

  • It makes my expectations clear – you can’t hide rubbish work because I see it and make you re-do it next lesson. High expectations.
  • Quality of work – If I had a suspicion that a student wasn’t truly focussed or maybe talking too much, marking their work usually confirms this. The quicker this is dealt with the better. The longer they think they can have a poor attitude or do the minimum the more difficult it is to get them out of it. I’ve changed students in seating plans because of the poor quality of work.
  • It gives routine. They know they have things to do at the start of the lesson.
  • It helps to find common misunderstandings ready to be addressed the next lesson. What’s the point in doing it two weeks later? Explain and then get them to green pen their work to show their new understanding
  • Behaviour – I am a believer in marking promotes good behaviour. It links back to the expectations. If you are busy doing what I expect you to do, there isn’t time for anything else
  • A consequence – if students don’t green pen their work adequately in the time given they will do this in their own time. I say it, I mean it and I enforce it. High expectations.
  • It shows your value their work;every piece. And that you care. Not marking work must be one of the most frustrating & demotivating things we can do to a student.
  • It makes your subject feel important. Linked to the above. If literacy and quality are important then it supports your subject.
  • Planning is marking. Marking is planning.
  • You can easily and quickly identify students that need support or challenge. Intervention is quick & focussed.
  • You can easily track progress of a student or the successes or problems in a scheme of learning for the future.

To me the benefits outweigh anything else. I believe a teacher is employed to teach and ensure students are learning, if you’re making them write you have a duty to mark it in the most efficient & effective way.


Why I don’t like the notion of ‘significant groups’


In the past, as a teacher, I’ve been told to write an individual intervention for every significant child.  Children who could well have met expected levels and beyond in their work; I still had to write an intervention strategy.

This may be controversial and I’m very happy for people to challenge, to develop my thinking, but I think the notion of ‘significant groups’ is wrong and shouldn’t be used the way it currently is.

I think we should only single out individual children for intervention and support where there is evidence they are underachieving. We shouldn’t group them. The labels that we have created are so broad that we are in danger of stereotyping children and actually missing the point of education; EVERY child matters.

I propose we have two new ‘significant group’ labels, and ditch the rest.

1. Achieving/making progress

2. Not achieving/making progress.

We then look into individuals. We see what might be preventing them from achieving/making progress and do something about it. We should have as much information about the child as we can , which may be SEN, LAC etc but this should be used to inform NOT used to organise achievement/progression data. We should use systems in school to track and monitor students on an individual basis. Individual teachers should be responsible for progress in their class. I believe that teachers have the power to make a significant difference to a child’s life  during a lesson, regardless of life outside of the classroom. Don’t we all have to believe this to make a difference?

My least liked significant group is ‘Pupil Premium’ (PP or PPG)…


Let’s say in a class I teach I mark their books and notice that 4 students’ work isn’t developing at the right level. It turns at that these 4 students’ parents have claimed for free school meals in the past 6 years. How can I put in an intervention for those 4 students based on this? I can’t. I have to work individually with these students to help them. A graph or table telling me that my PP students are underachieving and expecting me to put in an intervention for them because of this is nonsense.

Please don’t tell me that my teaching was different for them because they ate a free school meal. I don’t buy it I’m afraid. I have high expectations of ALL students and I teach for ALL to make progress. It was my teaching, my lesson, my explanation, my resource that meant they didn’t progress. Not their lunch.

Mary Myatt blogged about Pupil Premium. She quotes the following statistics…

“We know that when they start school many children from poorer backgrounds can be up to 16 months behind their peers in vocabulary: they are less likely to have been read to, heard fewer words spoken and have had a less stimulating environment. By the end of Key Stage 2 68% of pupils eligible for the pupil premium achieved level 4+, compared to 84% of all other pupils. At  KS4 38% students on FSM achieved 5ACEM compared with 66% for all other students. Pupils eligible for FSM are five times more likely to be excluded from primary”

When put collectively like this I can see that there are issues nationally with these students however the data in itself should not be used to impose ‘blanket’ intervention. It’s how schools and leaders and responded to this data that I have issue with.

I had free school meals for a couple of years at high school. I would have been mortified if I’d known that that was the only reason why a teacher or the school show ‘extra’ interest in me. I would’ve hoped that it would have been because I, like any other peer, may have been underachieving, not because I got a free lunch.

Prevention better than cure?

I truly believe that high expectations, focussed planning, good marking and monitoring of progress is the way for ALL students to achieve. I will intervene with any student that underachieves, regardless what letters they have next to their name.

With all these significant groups I feel sorry for any student that is white, non-SEN, not AGT, not LAC, not PP and lives in a high IDACI area.

Ofsted reforms 2014-2015 – Some hints at the changes for Sept 2015 from Mike Cladingbowl #rED14


For those of you that weren’t at Mike Cladingbowl’s session at ResearchED14 on 6th September 2014, his session outlined a history of inspection, what the purpose of inspection is and finally some hints at what may be part of the reforms planned for this/next year.

  • The reforms will be wide. He would like to speak to a many people as possible about what they feel Ofsted can do. He would like to get at least 23000 teachers having a voice in the process through consultation
  • Good and better schools will have a ‘light touch’ visit. A small group of HMIs (I think he said every 3 years?) will come and meet with the school. It will be a discussion about where things are rather than an inspection as we know it.
  • Whole school gradings of 1-4 may go. He proposed ‘good enough’ or ‘not good enough’ as the new judgements.
  • There will continue to be no grading of individual lessons but he stressed that an inspection of learning and teaching without seeing it in action will not be the way forward. However, how inspectors visit lessons will not be the ‘clipboard’ style it has been.
  • He believes that SMSC is important (Hurrah!). He hinted at it becoming a more key part of inspections.
  • Curriculum is the key focus for reform. (More focus on broad and balanced?)

I wanted to ask him about no-notice inspections but time ran out.

If you were in the session and I’ve missed anything or you feel I’ve misrepresented it then please add a comment and I will edit the post. I think the video of the session will be available soon as well.