marking in schools

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“Effective marking is an essential part of the education process. At its heart, it is an interaction between teacher and pupil: a way of acknowledging pupils’ work, checking the outcomes and making decisions about what teachers and pupils need to do next, with the primary aim of driving pupil progress. This can often be achieved without extensive
written dialogue or comments.”

OR even better

“Marking should serve a single purpose – to advance pupil progress and outcomes.

Both quotes are from Eliminating unnecessary workload around marking by the Independent Teacher Workload Review Group – March 2016 (emphasis added).

So when marking is ineffective, it is pointless and even worse demoralising for teachers.

There have been many fads when it comes to marking. What should be borne in mind when marking?

Who is marking for?

The SLT, the child, Ofsted or is it a safety net for teachers? The only correct answer is the child. If the marking doesn’t help the learning then it is a waste of time.

If all your students’ books are up to date with detailed marking, does this make you a good teacher? 

Never confuse quantity of feedback with the quality. The quality of the feedback, however given, will be seen in how a pupil is able to tackle subsequent work. Does there need to be a record of the feedback or does the progress students are making in the subject indicate the quality of feedback?

Sampling/Five-minute flick learning review

Check through a sample of books to assess how students across a range of abilities performed. If they have produced a piece of writing, try and spot common flaws and misconceptions. Discuss any issues and work through them at the beginning of the next as a class.

Triple Impact Marking (TIM)/Deep Marking

Triple Impact Marking (TIM) or Deep Marking are generic terms used to describe a process where teachers provide written feedback to pupils and pupils are expected to respond in writing.  The teacher then reviews.

TIM became omnipresent in schools following Ofsted praising the approach in a school report. Parents liked it, SLT liked it.

However, the workload it introduced and forced on teachers was significant. Indeed, if teachers are spending more time on marking a piece of work that a student in producing that work then something is wrong.

Unions now advise members to refuse to comply with any feedback and assessment policy which generates excessive workload and this includes TIM.

Live Marking/Blended Learning

Live marking can be great as it helps correct the student as they are doing the work and implement that feedback straight away. An example of live marking may be to call up students one-by-one to your desk. Review their work and give feedback. If you are required by your school to demonstrate evidence of marking, a “VF” mark could be used.


In the Workload Challenge responses, a key driver of particular marking practices was seen to be Ofsted. In response, in the Spring of 2015, Ofsted set out that it does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking. This clarification is now contained within the School Inspection Handbook:

“Ofsted does not expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders. Ofsted recognises that the amount of work in books and folders will depend on the subject being studied and the age and ability of the pupils.

Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy, which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in  different ways, in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning.

While inspectors will consider how written and oral feedback is used to promote learning, Ofsted does not expect to see any written record of oral feedback provided to pupils by teachers.

If it is necessary for inspectors to identify marking as an area for improvement for a school, they will pay careful attention to the way recommendations are written to ensure that these do not drive unnecessary workload for teachers.

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