Improving Feedback – Reducing Workload

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Steven Robertson

Steven writes for the Teacher Toolkit site from a primary perspective. He is a primary school teacher in a catholic primary school in Runcorn. Although currently in key stage 1, he has experience teaching across a variety of year groups and has previously taught in...
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What can you do to maximise the impact of your marking while minimising your workload?


In the current system of high accountability and high stakes, primary school teachers often find themselves struggling to make the most of their time to improve outcomes for the pupils they teach.

With the increased emphasis on a judgment being made on ‘teaching over time’, the importance of the work in a student’s book has never been more pronounced. It comes as no surprise then, that marking now plays such a significant role in the workload crisis engulfing the primary (and secondary) profession.


Mistakenly, a lot of schools advocate leaving feedback on each piece of work as they feel this is what Ofsted want to see. This can never be further from the truth!

Not only is this hugely time-consuming, it also has potential for feedback to be presented as it is expected, rather than because it is required. By the time a teacher marks books, the most effective time for feedback has already passed. While marking, the emphasis should always be on the impact of feedback and its ability to move learning forward.


The following 5 strategies may minimise your workload, while maximising the impact of your marking.

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Image: Shutterstock

1.Quality, Not Quantity

Is it really necessary to provide feedback on every single piece of work?

Find opportunities to provide more effective feedback less often.  Providing feedback on two pieces of work effectively has more impact than marking five pieces of work poorly. When looking at a book in-depth, identify strengths in the piece of work and guide the next steps in learning. Ensure that the pupil reads your marking and provide time for them to respond to it where necessary.

Ensure that whatever way you choose to mark the books, each child receives quality feedback proportionate to the curriculum time given.

2. Must-Marking

That is not to say that you simply neglect all of the books for several days a week. Age-related expectations or misunderstandings of key concepts must be commented upon. An example of this might be neglect of capital letters and full stops, misuse of basic number facts or confusion around what has been taught. Comment upon something students have done well and then issue a reminder.

3. Response Marking

If you identify errors that are easily corrected, ensure you set a challenge that the child must respond to before moving on to the next lesson. This could manifest itself in correcting errors in calculations or redrafting short extracts from pieces of work. Highlight or put brackets around the work which needs to be improved upon and write an explanation of what you would like the pupil to do.

4. Student Marking

Call out the answers five minutes prior to moving on to your plenary, ensuring the pupils mark their own work. Challenge them to correct any errors that have been identified.

5. Use your Support Staff

If you have support staff working with you in the classroom, arm them with a pen when you distribute their support.

Ask students to mark and correct errors in books, leaving you to provide any feedback later. If they’ve discussed the group work with you after the lesson, you’re likely to already know what they’ve done well and where they need to go next before you even get to the books.

Why not read the latest guidance published by the DfE? Eliminating unnecessary workload around marking.

Teacher Toolkit will be sharing thoughts on this report and the impact it could have in classrooms …


Steven Robertson writes for Teacher Toolkit. Read more of his articles here.


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