What Not To Mark?: The Life Of A Deputy Headteacher

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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This is a blog about UnMarking – reducing the marking burden placed upon teachers, so that effective and targeted marking can have deeper impact.

Is it time to tie a noose around those bad marking myths?

Inspired by The Marking Frenzy, this blog aims to equip teachers with strategies for reducing the burden on marking, and more importantly, sharing a few ideas for leadership teams across the country to help clarify what marking is not needed. Click this.

Over the past term, I have observed marking in my school. During the coming term, I will be looking to achieve the following 10 bullet points with middle leaders and our core teaching and learning group.

  1. Review the marking policy
  2. Review our assessment policy
  3. Share examples of good marking
  4. Share examples of not yet good marking.
  5. Offer CPD opportunities for all teaching staff.
  6. Build marking into our observational culture.
  7. Remove the fear and burden associated with marking.
  8. Enable teachers to mark with least workload and maximum impact.
  9. Help students to redraft without rebuff
  10. Help students to continue making progress.

Marking Policy:

We are now on version 4 of our proposed marking policy after Taking Look at Books earlier on this term. The policy is nowhere near complete, but it was shared with staff and middle leaders following on from our very successful CPD session, and incredibly well-read blog, Power from the Floor.

I’ve never been a fan of marking. What teacher is? But the more and more I delve deeper and deeper into policy and workload strategy, it has made me think much more seriously about my own marking, and much more cognitively. Dare I say, I am now enjoying marking now that I understand it much better than when I first did as an NQT and a young middle leader. I now understand the impact marking can have on student progress, as well as (if streamlined), how marking can appropriately and sensitively help reduce workload.

Our vision for marking will always be tackled from a full-time classroom teacher’s perspective.

Marking Workload Full Time Teacher

5-Point Marking Plan:

I have previously blogged the details A Common Sense Approach to Marking Workload.  Our 5-point plan approach 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.

In terms of workload, A Common-sense Approach to Marking shared 3 versions of the document below. After much consultation, even feedback from colleagues on Twitter, this is where we are now with our 4th drafted document. Hopefully, we will be in a position to publish this in the summer term and have the document printed as a reminder and useful reference point for every teacher – within our very own teacher-planner.

Read Constantly Tweaking Teaching for more information.


Below is out latest marking-workload guidance. Click to share the document.

In the ‘Expected Practice‘ column, the terminology has changed from ‘Always‘ to ‘Aim for.’

What to Mark Marking Workload

Download Marking Workload Guidance – Version 4 – 26.3.15 … and please do feedback your thoughts as we are not yet finished with this.

I’m sure you will agree, all schools must tie a noose around those marking myths, to enable teachers the freedom to mark less with greater impact.

Photo Credit: Mark L Edwards via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Mark L Edwards via Compfight cc

11 thoughts on “What Not To Mark?: The Life Of A Deputy Headteacher

  1. Pingback: What Not To Mark? by @TeacherToolkit | Uxbridge College Teaching and Learning
  2. Hey Ross, following on from your “The Answer is Simple” post on teacher workload I’d like to propose a simple answer regarding homework: What if teachers only mark what a student asks them to mark? What if teachers can even say ‘no’ to a student on account of the teacher having something on that evening and, instead, that teacher might ask the student to wait or suggest they see a different teacher or person? And, by ‘person’ I mean that a student could get their work seen by someone who is not a teacher, but who the student knows is good at seeing issues in flow or spelling or logic or design or whatever the student needs a second pair of eyes on. Students feel guilty about the fact that their teachers do not enjoy marking their work and it’s quite a paradox for students to grapple with that teachers set work and then suffer from marking that work. You’re giving great advice here about how to make marking more efficient/effective but, think from a student perspective at how empty it feels to pour yourself into a piece that is ultimately going to be in a pile of 30 similar pieces and looked at because the teacher is obliged to. All this can go away if we simply allow and encourage the students to… ask. What do you think?

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