Dear Mr. McGill

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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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Why do schools ask their teachers to mark every piece of classwork?

Dear Mr. McGill, it was lovely to speak to you in the playground the other day. Thank you for your letter outlining your marking expectations. I have shared my thoughts below and have outlined how I would like to support the school.

 I Believe In The State …

My daughter Fatima and I have talked about your letter and length and although we were both surprised by your statistics, I know that I am very happy that you teach my daughter. Fatima would be devastated if you left the school, or teaching for that matter. First and foremost, I am a taxpayer and believe in the state system. I am very happy with the quality of education my daughter is receiving, despite the OfSTED headlines of ‘Requires Improvement’. That aside, having had a relationship with the school for over 7 years – as you know, you also taught my son Marcus over 3 years ago and know the school and you more than anyone – I understand how hard the teachers work despite the challenges you face inside and outside of the school.

The Government could do a lot more by celebrating the amazing work that you do. Which brings me on to your letter.

A Cohesive Society

Marking. I know that it is not possible for you to mark every piece of work my daughter produces. I also know that you spend a great deal of your time speaking with her before, during an after each lesson. I can only imagine this is an impossible task for 30 students each week. What a burden this must be if you teach 300+ individual students. I was shocked by the length of time it would take you to mark all of Fatima’s classwork, even if you just marked once every 6 weeks for just 5 minutes per student. I was flabbergasted actually!

For that matter, I think the school should stop expecting teachers to mark homework immediately. What’s the point of increasing a teacher’s workload? Fatima’s best friend Maddy struggles at home because her mother is not around to help her. She works the night shift and Maddy is often left home with her elder brother who wouldn’t know where the Pope lives, never mind work out how to help Maddy construct an isosceles triangle! What a stress this must be for a 13-year-old returning to class?

Homework only increases the disadvantaged gap, and for me I want a more cohesive society rather than ostracised communities, so let’s stop pushing ideas that widen the rich and poor and focus on teaching that is directly linked to success. As for exams? Well, that’s another issue.

A Win-Win For Every Parent

Anyway, marking. I am more than happy to support you Mr. McGill – and whatever marking policy the school wants to publish. I’d rather every teacher who teaches my daughter is happy working at the school and that the institution is doing all it can to make its own workforce want to work within it. If only OfSTED would ask teachers for their ‘workload views’ when working for a particular school. That would be very telling wouldn’t it?

If the teachers are happy, I suspect they will be in a good position to teach my daughter. That’s a win-win for every parent.

For any school to ask their teachers to mark once every two weeks, for 30 children in a class, just at the minimum you have outlined (5 minutes per student) without any consideration for assessment, data entry or examination practice, hasn’t quite figured out the real statistics and its impact for the classroom teacher. I suspect it has a detrimental impact for all students – you know, marking 2 or 3 weeks later after the lesson rather than speaking to students and providing detailed feedback. Wouldn’t students and teachers be happier if they could receive / give immediate feedback?

I can now see why teachers are leaving education in their thousands.

Take it from. Keep doing what your doing. I trust you. I trust the school. Speak to my daughter as much as you can. Mark when you think it is needed, and as long as my daughter is happy and can reach her potential, then I’m a happy parent.


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