NEU (then ATL) members in schools balloted for industrial action in 2013. The majority of schools voted by over 95 per cent in favour of action – that being non co-operation with DE/CCEA end of key stage 3 (cross-curricular) assessments.
The DfE report on marking - Reducing teacher workload: Marking Policy Review Group report - aims to help schools review their practice with the aim of shrinking the importance marking has gained and stopping unnecessary and burdensome practice.
The DfE report on marking
What does the DfE report identify as the main problems with the way marking is often carried out in schools?
That its ‘excessive nature, depth and frequency’ is ‘burdensome’.
- That it is frequently seen to be ‘serving a different purpose such as demonstrating teacher performance or to satisfy the requirements of other mainly adult audiences. Too often, it is the marking itself which is being monitored and commented on by leaders, rather than pupil outcomes and progress as a result of quality feedback’.
- That there can be ‘an excessive reliance on the labour intensive practices under our definition of deep marking, such as extensive written comments in different colour pens, or the indication of when verbal feedback has been given by adding ‘VF’ on a pupil’s work’.
- That it can be ‘unmanageable for teachers and teachers forced to mark work late at night and at weekends are unlikely to operate effectively in the classroom.’
- That there are ‘myths that need to be de-bunked’, namely ‘that you must spend hours marking to be a good teacher; that writing pages of feedback makes you more effective; and that there is a link between quantity of marking and pupil progress.’
Debunking marking myths
- Giving feedback to pupils is vital for learning: written marking isn’t.
- Spending hours marking does not make you a good teacher.
- Writing pages of feedback do not make you more effective as a teacher.
- There is no obvious link between the quantity of marking and pupil progress.
- There is no guidance from Government or Ofsted that says teachers must provide written feedback and that pupils should respond in writing. Not even in the Teacher Standards.
- Marking doesn’t need its own policy – it is a part of assessment.
As National Education Union members, get together and consider these challenges:
Can you stop written marking – for a week; for a phase; for a subject; forever (some schools have)? If so, use the time to engage in the following challenges:
- Embed the principles of effective marking: do you have a shared agreement about what manageable, meaningful and motivating marking looks like in your school – for the age range you teach, for the subject you teach?
- Do you have an understanding, as a staff and shared with your SLT, about how long marking takes?
- Does your assessment policy (or your marking policy if you still have one) have a workload impact assessment? If not, can you come to some (rough) figures for how long it would take to fulfil?
- Do you know what impact your marking has on pupil progress? Can you agree on a project with your school leaders to review the impact of marking with the aim of minimising unnecessary demands on teachers’ time
- How many different techniques do you have to assess pupil learning? How many are identified in your assessment policy? How can you increase that range?