Marking and Work Scrutiny

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How would you go about monitoring marking consistency and student progress across a large secondary school; as well as aiming to reduce teacher’s workload?


Last week I asked you this;

Twitter Poll Marking

In our school, we do not grade individual lessons 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 has also been designed and considered throughout. Here, I share how we will go about monitoring the first part of our mark-plan-teach pedagogy. You can find the ‘mark’ approach in our one-page summary below; behind this synopsis, sits a deeper learning policy full of context (for teaching in our school with our students); equipped with rationale, appendices and examples.

Here is the current one-page summary; the full policy will be published later in the spring.

Learning Policy September 2015

Why a Learning Policy?

  1. Our policy defines the consistencies we expect, to make the teacher’s job easier. Particular aspects, e.g. the yellow box need to become common practice in the same way as our Behaviour for Learning policy.
  2. To make expectations simple and clearer. To equip every teacher; knowing the ‘same is going on in other classrooms’ …
  3. All of Mark-Plan-Teach will be monitored, but the purpose is to ensure a ‘progress over time’ methodology rather than ease of monitoring …

I will just repeat that last sentence just in case you failed to digest the information. The purpose is designed to ensure progress, not to make monitoring what teachers do more easier for school leaders.

Okay. Let’s move on.

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“Phew! Let’s carry on …

Image: Shutterstock

Mark (Learning Policy):

At our school, we have agreed and finalised our marking code and have defined the following points with further detail, context and examples to support the one-page summary.

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

Work Scrutiny:

As part of our MER (Monitoring, Evaluation and Review) cycle (which has proved very popular with many readers), before half-term, our departments moderated the quality of marking in their own teams. We left them to do this. In fact, we’ve left our teachers alone for almost one year. A risky strategy to adapt in a ‘requires improvement’ school where the expectations are high, despite the unwanted stress. We’ve removed lesson gradings; we’ve encouraged, facilitated and asked teachers to observe each other; we’ve also asked them to look in each others’ books once, last February 2015 as part of a whole-school process. Of course, this is already happening well in most departments …

One year on, we now need to see what progress has been made.

MER Cycle Monitoring Evaluation Review


We aim to conduct whole-school monitoring in several ways. Much later on in the year (week 22 above), we plan to conduct a book sample with our teaching and learning team. We also aim to create a speed-dating style CPD session or a marketplace, where all of our teachers can view a wide range of marking practice and classroom strategies across the school. This will most likely happen in June 2016.

In the next two weeks, these are the following monitoring activities we will complete:

  • Week 1: All middle and senior leaders will visit teacher’s classrooms to take a look at student books.
  • Week 1: The teaching and learning team will gather key stage three books in a work sample.
  • Week 2: as part of pre-planned CPD exercise, departments will visit other classrooms in pairs.
  • Week 2: SLT line-managers will attend the departments they line manage and be part of departmental work moderation.
  • Following the process: a simple self-evaluation will be expected from each department. This will be used to report back to me, to gather an overview of the quality of teaching and learning taking place across the school; and assess the impact the ‘mark’ section of the learning policy has had, since its launch in September.

The Revised Template:

We ask for at least 5 students to be part of a sample. This is achievable in less than 20 minutes. Every sample should include a pre-determined student who is high, middle, low attainer, as well as a pupil premium and gifted and talented student where possible. Our ‘Not Yet’ response allows the observer to suggest that the four aspects of our marking policy are in development and may ‘not yet’ be evident in the small sample.  Here is the form:

Book Looks Work Scrutiny

Click to expand.

The revised book look template is simpler to use. It focuses on the 4 aspects of the mark section, taken from our learning policy and asks the observer to gather a pre-planned sample of students. The exercise can be conducted in or out of the lesson.

Students should be predetermined before any book look process (and not be a random sample in any lesson).

A Reminder:

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


I will report back in December …


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3 thoughts on “Marking and Work Scrutiny

  1. There is so much good ‘stuff’ in this post that I assure you will be the subject of Consideration by me and lots of others… On first read, it is very apparent that this approach is aimed at facilitating effective student learning!!! This should be one important part of the foundation of discussion among PLCs, PLNs, EdCamps, and even Twitter chats.

    Thanks for the great resources!!!

  2. Interesting insight into how a whole school policy is implemented. I’m intrigued that the Lesrning policy summary jumps straight in with “Marking”, then “Planning” and finally “Teaching”. Would it be worth starting with a clear statement about what the school considers good “Learning”. There is a danger of losing sight of the wood for trees by focusing on the processes of marking and assessment at the expense of the overall purpose which is learning.

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