Marking Workload: Ask A Teacher!

Reading time: 3
shutterstock_300818213 Tired, work, lack. woman teacher


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...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

If you wanted to help reduce teacher workload, who would you ask?

We live in a time, where teacher workload operates at a frenetic pace. Accountability has never been higher, and stress and lack of staff wellbeing has reached new heights and new lows.

Last week, Nicky Morgan announced the chairs and members of 3 new workload review groups. These working parties will look at teacher-workload in 3 key areas; marking, planning and data-management. I’ve now written publicly about workload several times in the wonderful Schools Week newspaper, as well as countless times here on my blog; I will even go at lengths to say here, that I’m waving my hand at Nicky Morgan and the DfE to be involved and happily offer my services.

What I am keen to see happen, is that we go beyond case-studies and exemplar documents, and actually change policy. This proposal I make will fall on deaf ears, as it will cost money and will require a change in how we current ask our teachers to teach. You can read more about my argument and views here. The answer is really, very simple …

shutterstock_304126313 Call me back. Nice overjoyed man holding hand near his ear and smiling while imitating mobile phone talk

“Call me…”

Image: Shutterstock

Nicky Morgan is clear;

Through the workload challenge we have identified the main factors behind teacher workload and we now have a package of measures to help address the root causes. The review groups will build on those commitments by specifically looking in more depth at the three biggest concerns that teachers raised – marking, planning and resources, and data management – and I look forward to their recommendations. (Source)

We cannot package a problem that is epidemic across the profession. This needs a structural change across the sector; directed – not suggested – from the DfE and supported by Ofsted. The biggest ask will be a financial requirement by the government to give teaching staff more time during the day, to mark students’ books and feedback to their students. I’ll say it again, the real answer – one that will never be agreed by the DfE – is very simple …

Marking Review Group:

Each of the 3 working parties are due to report back to the Secretary of State in late spring 2016; publishing useful case studies, written by serving teachers, showing what’s working well in other schools.

I do not want to regurgitate the details already shared by the DfE, but a brief summary will prove useful;  the group will consider effective practice on marking in schools which raises standards for pupils without creating unnecessary workload. The relatively good news – in comparison with the other steering groups – is that there are 2 classroom teachers on the review group.

The group’s aims are:

  • look at the workload implications of certain practices, with a specific focus on ‘deep marking’ – a term I dislike, which supports The Marking Frenzy.
  • consider what works in schools and what might/might not be necessary
  • develop a set of principles for marking
  • make recommendations about marking.

I am not asking that I be on the panel, or that I am unhappy with those that are on the review group. However, I would like to question where there is a significant minority of classroom teachers on this panel (and the other 2), and I would also like to question the transparency of how each steering group is curated. Knowing that I have been partial to a steering group or two, I do know that these groups tend to be designed on the basis of ‘who you know.’ I’m hoping that this group has also been crated on the premise that it is ‘what we know’. Please can we ask the DfE to publish how these groups are generated.

With the 100 teachers I work with, we have re-focused our marking and can define them in 4 simple sentences. We believe that “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 andselective marking, where relevant.
  3. Marking and feedback must be regular (and proportionate with curriculum time)
  4. The marking code must be used (and found in this blog).”


Recently, I’ve blogged about marking topics that have resonated with teachers all over the country. These blogs are shown below (with minimum readership figures):

It may be worth you and your senior leadership teams reading/sharing these blogs to help cut this workload nonsense; or better still, share this article with the DfE. If you have any solutions, email the working part here.

I will report back; and also blog shortly about the two other working groups.


@TeacherToolkit logo new book Vitruvian man

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.