Sticky-Plaster Marking by @TeacherToolkit

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Sticky Plaster


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 another blog about marking and teacher workload. Click this if you’re feeling bemused.

I’ve never written a quicker blog after reading an article. I can tell this kind of information has made my blood boil and my fingers tipi-tee-tap on the keyboard at a rapid speed! I was quite taken aback when I first saw this article today on the BBC News, ‘Outsource marking’ to cut teachers’ workload.

“Teachers could reduce their workload by outsourcing the marking of pupils’ school work to staff overseas, suggests a leading education researcher. Rebecca Allen, director of Education Datalab, says research has found “incredibly reliable” marking available overseas costing £2 to £3 per hour. @DrBeckyAllen says there needed to be more radical approaches to cutting workload. But heads’ leader @BrianLightman said he would have “serious concerns” about regularly outsourcing marking.”

Research, research, research ya-da-ya-da-ya-da! …

A Sticky Plaster:

As a young teacher, I once outsourced marking my exam papers to a friend who was an accountant. It was to alleviate my workload. (Yes, it even existed in the 1990s!) I even offered to pay her to do it. It is my greatest ever “marking regret.” I spend more time explaining how to mark the papers, the context of each question, and how to allocate each mark. I’ve never done it again! And then to top it all off, I had to pick up the pieces in the classroom one week later when I had to re-read over all the marking and feedback, unpicking any inaccuracies for the students.

I arrived to the class unprepared.

During my 20+ year teaching career, I’ve never really been a fan of marking, but much more recently I’ve started to grow to love assessment and feedback as I’ve begun to understand it much more cognitively.

Sticky PlasterGo on, click me!

Outsourcing marking is only a sticky plaster over a much more deep-rooted issue; teacher workload. I’ve explained my reasoning and rationale in much more detail, in an article I’ve recently written for @SchoolsWeek; see Reduce Teacher Workload? The Answer is Simple.

“Remember, the full-time classroom teacher, day-in, day-out, teaches 90 per cent of a 25 to 30-hour timetabled week. This leaves a mere 10 per cent of time allocated to complete two remaining, yet fundamental, aspects of the role: marking and planning. This places an incredible burden on that 10 per cent – and leaves all other tasks to be completed in our own time. To reduce workload, we need to consider reducing teaching load to one-third. That way, we could teach for 33 per cent of the time and divide the remaining 66 per cent between planning and marking.”

Long Term:

I have suggested before but to reduce workload we must take a long-term view at reducing the quantity of teaching we currently ask of teachers and what we ask of them to do. There is a more detailed view of workload bureaucracy in my blogpost here, The Workload Challenge Report recognised by the DfE. It is not sustainable for anyone to teach 90% of the timetable. In my new role as deputy headteacher, it is much more important for me to keep my ears on the ground and in contact with the classroom teacher. I’m often reminded of this when I speak with my wife Alman busy heads of department, when I asked them when they can meet and they say they do not have a free period until three days later! Although I am aware of the constraints in the classroom this never ceases to surprise me given all the deadlines impression that we are all under, regardless of our role.

“The unnecessary workload surrounding marking has been caused by a high stakes accountability system which places teachers under intense pressure to provide ‘evidence’ to justify their assessment decisions.”

I do wonder, and I not mean to be provocative, but I often query when researchers last taught in a school and last felt fulfilled from marking a good class-set of books? The issue is Oftsed and ‘progress over time’ and how this is evidenced in books, marking, feedback and re-drafting. Over the past 6 months, I have been reminded of some simple and important educational values. Read my Workload Conversation here, which is a blog about teacher relationships, unnecessary workload and political claptrap.

I wonder …

I wonder when I completed my MA, or a PhD in the future, if I outsourced the reading and writing to somebody else. Would it truly be ‘my work?’ Or if my tutor asked somebody else to mark my assignments, how would you or I feel?

Frustrated? Then click this and read my popular blog, The Marking Frenzy!

4 thoughts on “Sticky-Plaster Marking by @TeacherToolkit

  1. I think that outsourcing is an extreme solution but the truth is that something does need to be done to reign in what is happening. I have said before that your solution would not work for primary in the same way however we need a cap on our working hours. I think we need to have the 48 hour working week apply to us. If we choose to work more then fine but at the moment there is no limit to the hours that we can be asked to work and that is wrong for any person in any job.

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