A Common Sense Approach to Marking

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This is a blog about marking workload. If you download this resource, please tweet this link.

In October 2014, I blogged about The Marking Frenzy, which struck a chord with many of my readers. This is a direct outcome of ‘progress over time’ and the ‘workload’ issues that are prevalent in everything that we are familiar with in all of our classrooms and schools. The DfE recently published The Workload Challenge which highlights numerous, unnecessary and unproductive tasks. Marking featured in much of this report.

In January 2015, I then shared Power from the Floor (as part of our own CPD series) which offered a common-sense approach to whole-school marking. The 5-point plan considered the following;

  1. To develop high quality assessment.
  2. To develop diagnostic feedback across all subjects.
  3. To approach marking from a realistic, workload perspective.
  4. To keep in mind a common-sense approach.
  5. To ensure we are getting it right for students and teachers from the outset.

I then shared Taking A Look at Books which provided details of our plans to monitor the quality of marking and assessment in every teacher’s classroom. This stage is now complete and I will share the headline messages soon. In the book-monitoring blog, I shared the following document and asked staff for their feedback…

First Draft:

The following image contains teaching and learning views of colleagues …

Marking Template WorkloadRedrafted:

Following our Power from the Floor CPD session, each table (of 10-12 staff) were asked to leave one recommendation (on each side of the document) as a first set of initial responses. Here is the collection of key ideas.

Marking WorkloadRedrafted Revisited:

Based on staff responses, I can now share our 3rd drafted document which are views amalgamated together. This will now form part of our academic (teaching and learning) forum, made up from our team of heads of faculty and heads of department. We are not yet finished with this; we want to get this right. We want to reduce workload and increase impact on marking and student progress.

Middle leaders and colleagues within faculties will now look at this more closely; homing in on the details of the dos and don’t dos of marking. We will do this one more time before we launch this document to all staff. This will be supported alongside our improved Marking Policy which I will also share in due course.


I am blogging the final draft here for feedback from readers. Please could you consider the following questions:

  1. What would you add / take away?
  2. Is there a danger that publishing this information leads to a specific set of performance? Or is this a specific set of consistencies?
  3. Will this guidance reduce workload and increase impact, (or not)?

Your thoughts please.

Marking WorkloadDownload:

You can download the template here Marking Workload Guidance. If you do, all I ask in return, is that you tweet this link and share your own version. After all, sharing is caring!



In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

15 thoughts on “A Common Sense Approach to Marking

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  • 4th March 2015 at 6:45 pm

    I like the sentiments behind this but am not sure about the ‘always’ focus. In my opinion, and if we are to support professional judgement, the overarching principle should be for the teacher to judge what is right in there unique context. As we have put in our draft policy “what’s right is what works”,

    I’d be happy to share our draft which is out to consultation if you drop me an email.

    • 4th March 2015 at 10:45 pm

      Hi Matthew, I have already decided to remove the word ‘always’ before blogging this. Lots of editing still to do, but probably will move towards ‘Aim for’… and yes, for teachers to decide. Do like the quote, so I’m stealing that. Thanks for the comment. Will email.

  • 5th March 2015 at 9:10 pm

    I think these are an excellent set of principles that should move student learning forward but without burning staff out (hopefully). Similar to Matthew’s comment which you’ve addressed, I wonder how relevant regular redrafting (every 2-3 weeks) will be in subjects such as music, ICT and French. However, if you replace with “aim to” that gives departments more autonomy to give feedback that works in their area for their students. I also like your monitoring form (from other blog) and will be using that next year.

  • 7th March 2015 at 7:18 am

    In subjects where you only see the student once a week, 2-3 weeks is both unnecessary and unrealistic, plus it creates uneven workloads; maybe it should be based on lessons rather than weeks, i.e. In English they might mark every two weeks as they see them 3/4 times a week. In History it might be once a half term as they see them once a week. Therefore the regularity of marking is the same.

    • 7th March 2015 at 9:58 am

      I agree. In our policy, we have created a flow/process based upon when you see the student. So this will be tweaked.

  • 7th March 2015 at 6:44 pm

    How do you anticipate this being used in practical subjects where evidence of progress over time is frequently in ‘making’ or ‘doing’? I agree with AOCONNOR that expectations of marking and self/peer assessment need to be linked to curriculum time allocation. My Arts and Music colleagues for example have some 500+ students to assess but may only see KS3 for 5 hours in a half term. Like the idea of a flow process.

    • 7th March 2015 at 7:52 pm

      A process/flow is the way to go… this then allows departments to use the flow to suit their own frequency/expectations.

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  • 17th June 2015 at 11:29 pm

    Reblogged this on Everyday Outstanding and commented:

    An interesting article on marking and how their school went about creating a collaborative approach. Their findings may help some of us approach our marking more effectively to support students progress.

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  • 25th June 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Lots of good common sense here. My comment is that I would like to dedicate more time to redrafting but with an increasingly content driven curriculum in which time is at a premium (unless you teach Maths or English) I don’t do it as often as I should. My solution to this is to teach planning and mark the first draft, then highlight a blank part of the student’s book where I will tell them to answer key questions or add points about a topic or issue. This has the bonus of it being obvious if they have not responded to marking and giving them an indication of how much I expect them to write.


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