Learning Policy: Marking (Part 1 of 3) by @TeacherToolkit

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shutterstock cheerful young male teacher grading school boy's work marking


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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If you were a school leader of teaching and learning, what would you do with one-hundred teachers in a school to raise standards?


This is part one of a three-part Learning Policy that is due for consultation with our middle and senior leaders before the end of the academic year, and then with all of our teaching staff in the autumn. Last week, I blogged How To Create A Teaching and Learning Common-Sense Culture? which shared quite the opposite of what I am sharing here. This was a ‘what we do not want’ our teachers do to.


This information is not yet policy, but is the start of what we hope to develop as part of our drive towards great teaching at Quintin Kynaston. This is our ‘to-do’ in the classroom. Part of our aims, is to raise standards of teaching and learning with the intention of developing A Way Forward for Teaching and Learning; particularly in a common learning policy that is clear, coherent and developmental for all our teaching staff.

In our school, we do not grade individual lessons (like this?) as we understand that a wider evidence base, developing the teacher in a progress-over-time methodology is required. Our evolving a mark-plan-teach philosophy, alongside a range of tools, strategies and sources of evidence will also be designed/considered. In this blog, I share the first part of our mark-plan-teach pedagogy. This is not yet ratified and will soon be up for discussion. Before reading the details, note that the ‘mark’ section below forms part of a one-page summary, and behind this synopsis, sits a deeper learning policy full of context (for teaching in our school with our students); equipped with rationale and appendices. (Like this? Tweet it!)

“What works for us, may not work for you.”

shutterstock Back to school concept on grunge background marking

Image: Shutterstock

This information below is only the ‘marking’ section of our mark-plan-teach pedagogy. This is our ‘to-do’ in the classroom and has been through no-less than 8 versions before sharing here. This is our final draft before sharing with our staff. It will change again …


Marking has two purposes. One, students act on feedback and make progress over time. Two, it informs future planning and teaching.

  1. Teachers must have a secure overview of the starting points, progress and context of all students.
  2. Marking must be primarily formative including use of a yellow box which is clear about what students must act upon and selective marking, where relevant.
  3. Marking and feedback must be regular
  4. The marking code must be used.

There was a minor change in terminology from ‘should’ to ‘must’ in the details above. Like it? Tweet it!


The frequency of marking will also be heavily debated. In our school, for example, drama teachers see their students once a week, hence marking every 6 lessons as a minimum; this equates to marking once every half-term.

I will share the fuller details of our marking code; examples of blue stickers and yellow box examples once the policy have been agreed by all our staff. I will also share the plan-teach sections of this one-page synopsis/summary in my next blog and then publish the fuller details of the policy.

Feedback please in the comments section below … Like it? Tweet it.


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19 thoughts on “Learning Policy: Marking (Part 1 of 3) by @TeacherToolkit

  1. We have spent the year discussing why we mark/feedback and what is effective marking and feedback. Our new policy (actually ‘Agreed principles and practice in written feedback’ is the name we will probably go for) acknowledges that different approaches will suit different subjects.

    Middle and senior leaders debated the core principles and agreed on the them, subject teams then debated & ultimately described what practice they had/would put in place to meet those core principles.

  2. Good to see more acknowledgement that ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t work for marking. As a teacher of RS (we also teach groups once per week) there have been academic years where I have 22 different sets and I was left feeling guilty (and stressed) over never being able to meet our fortnightly marking policy and the quality of feedback suffered as a result of trying to keep up. Good stuff here!

  3. Hard to.see how you can have a mark-plan-teach philosophy when teachers are only required to mark one in every 6 pieces of work. We had a mockstead recently and some.teachers were criticised for not having marked every piece of work….. Our policy is one in every 3 for English and every piece for everything else and is Primary but some can be self and peer marked.

    1. What works for you, works for you … and as for “not having marked every piece of work”; whoever led your mocksted, I wouldn’t have them back! We don’t do mocksteds at our school. School leaders should be confident enough to evaluate the quality of T&L themselves without creating unnecessary and additional stress on their teachers/school …

  4. I like the common sense approach with one health warning perhaps: I know you have mentioned about a minimum of once every six lessons but consider Year 11 as a specific example- if they have roughly 20 weeks left before sitting GCSE exams. This is maybe 60 lessons and several of those are lost through mocks etc. Lets say they actually get 55 lessons this means they will receive roughly 9 pieces of marked feedback before they sit their exams. Scary isn’t it? If this is it then we must make it count!

  5. Hi Ross,
    Thanks for this some useful ideas.
    A question please:

    ‘3.Marking and feedback must be regular
    1.work must be marked at least every 6 lessons on average for each class.
    2.including 3-6 ‘green sticker’ assessments per year, proportionate with curriculum time.’

    Does you mean every 6th piece of work or every six lessons all work must be marked? Do your assessments count within this number 6 or as an addition?



    1. At the moment, every 6th lesson. I am not happy with a figure – or what I have stated so far – as subjects who see students once a week = marking once per half term versus 5 lessons per week in GCSE/core subjects equate to 25 lessons per half-term. I’d rather avoid a quantitative figure and focus of qualitative statements …

      1. I really like this idea of giving staff a “way forward in T&L” As a question how would you still encourage that there is a constant stream of dialogue / feedback as well as marking … a problem I seem to find whilst training teachers is that when I talk about marking its seen as what they do at home and they often neglect the one to one constant / real time feedback that occurs in the classroom that can really drive improvement?

      2. I like the principle of not being qualitative and that you probably would want to mark as necessary. There’s no point in marking just because it’s time to do so…there needs to be some point to justify the investment of time required that goes beyond what can be done through peer and self assessment. In response to the ’20 weeks to go with Year 11′, this is exactly the time when the teacher needs most to step back and allow pupils to identify and learn how t judge their own work: they’re on their own in the exam, after all.

  6. I just wonder why we, as a profession, seem obsessed with putting numbers to things such as this. Regardless of the frequency the policy states, if there is a number, in this case ‘minimum every 6 lessons’ it suggests marking is either pre-prescribed or forced. Teachers thinking “it’s lesson 6 so I’d better mark” , rather than focusing on what and more importantly when students need the feedback. As a new T&L Assistant Head I wonder whether the issue is having a tightly prescribed policy full of imperatives. What if we build professional trust and through QA and student voice see if a school without a strict marking policy can progress?

  7. You recently visited our school Ross and gave some really useful information.
    I am currently trying to apply the idea of feedback/feedup/feedforward for our departments m-word policy but am struggling to visulaise it in practise. Do you have any examples of how/where this has been used that I could look through please?
    Many thanks

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