Marking policy; could SLT employ a mythbusting approach?

Sean Harford, (@HarfordSean on Twitter) Ofsted’s National Director, is keen to get the message out there about what Ofsted don’t want to see in terms of marking and feedback. Still I’m hearing many comments in schools, around marking, which these ‘Ofsted myth busters’ were designed to clarify. Ofsted does not want to see these things around marking:

  • 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.

In addition, these mythbusting bullets are also useful:

  • Ofsted will take a range of evidence into account when making judgements, including published performance data, the school’s in-year performance information and work in pupils’ books and folders, including that held in electronic form. However, unnecessary or extensive collections of marked pupils’ work are not required for inspection.
  • Ofsted does not require teachers to undertake additional work or to ask pupils to undertake work specifically for the inspection.

I repeat this one and I find there is a part of this clarification (I’ve highlighted in a different colour) that isn’t widely recognised by either SLT, or teachers, in schools (again, P10, handbook):

  • 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.

…i.e. teachers should be doing what their school’s policy says they should be doing.

However, Ofsted are right to say that it is entirely up to schools how they should organise marking policy. I have a suggestion around something which may help SLT and teachers and potentially cut worry and possibly workload.It came out of discussions in a large secondary Academy where I was working with subject leaders on teacher’s marking in books and the Academy’s marking policy.

I think Ofsted’s clarifications, as to what they don’t want to see, are an excellent attempt to reducing pressure on teachers during inspection, but still I’m finding teachers complaining that they have to do things because ‘Ofsted want to see them’. Ofsted really don’t and these clarifications should be helping, but the message has not got to the troops on the ground in all schools. Many teachers are not on Twitter and they aren’t terribly interested in reading the Ofsted handbook and really, neither should they be! They have much more important things to do. It’s likely that the messages that teachers are receiving around what Ofsted do and don’t want to see is being filtered through SLT and especially via the marking section of the assessment policy. Maybe this is happening because the marking policy is not explicit enough about what SLT don’t want to see?

If a marking policy has a specific section around what SLT don’t want to see, in terms of teacher’s marking on observation/learning walks/book trawl, just like the Ofsted handbook does, it might go some way towards reducing the daily marking pressure on teachers. Sometimes doing less can work well for both teacher and pupil and the teacher can still be following school policy, but teachers are still worried that it may not be OK to not mark some pieces of work. For example, a phrase like ‘marking needs to be regular’, could easily be interpreted by a teacher as ‘every piece of work must be marked’, but SLT may well not have formulated the policy with that expectation in mind at all. Words can get in the way. Indeed, the use of the word ‘feedback’, instead of ‘marking’ could be very freeing for staff, if a clear and explicit ‘mythbusting’ approach is used. EEF (Sutton Trust Toolkit) and John Hattie both put feedback as top in terms of effect size, but neither divide written, from oral feedback.

A ‘mythbuster’ such as; ‘Teachers do not have to mark every piece of work as long as both pupil voice and results show that feedback is working’, could have the potential to change a teacher’s life.

Just a thought – and a very personal one – but a thought that might be worth considering when reviewing your making policy.

 

 

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