Marking work – a sensible approach.

Marking – how should you approach it and what is its purpose?

All Primary schools should have a marking policy somewhere tucked away in their policy folders – and usually, at set intervals, schools will hold a staff meeting or series of meetings to discuss how they will adjust things for the future.

But lets look at just what is marking and what is it for?

Marking in its basic form allows you as a teacher to see how well children are progressing in a particular area and also their understanding. From this point of reference this allows you to assess the future needs of the class or of individuals and structure your lesson planning as such.

Marking also provides feedback to the pupils about their learning – but we will come on to that a little further into the article.

teacher-markingAs usual things have become far too complicated in Primary schools and Headteachers and advisers have consistently failed to step back and review things in a “common sense” way! This has resulted in the marking workload becoming more and more unreasonable and more and more unmanageable. Again we look to the senior management in schools to moderate this – but yet again they fail to address this vital issue.

Just what are we marking?

Its quite simple really – we are marking work on the teaching objectives set. So if the lesson is about adjectives then we mark the work on the use of adjectives appropriate to the age range of the children. What we don’t do is to start marking everything else that is NOT connected with the lesson objective!

If the lesson has been a science lesson on forces we would mark on the understanding of the children on the taught / demonstrated facts of forces…..nothing else is needed so why make things more complicated.

If you mark only on the mastery of the lesson objectives then it makes the task of marking much more focussed and easier to complete.

Take another look at this viewpoint as expressed by the government – the full article appears elsewhere on this site.

Teachers are spending too much time over-marking pupils’ homework, Schools Standards Minister Nick Gibb has said.

He told MPs that marking in different-coloured pens, and giving feedback in exercise books, had never been a government or an Ofsted requirement.

He told the Education Committee that the practice was adding to teachers’ workload – one of the top reasons given by them for leaving the profession.

Earlier, the committee had heard how it had become an urban myth in schools that teachers needed to mark in green and purple ink and give very detailed assessments of the work.

“This is one of the notions that came from somewhere in the ether, possibly something was said at a conference.

“It was never a requirement by the government, never a requirement of Ofsted, and so we have to send out the message that it is not required.

“It’s not required for there to be this dialogue on paper in different-coloured pens, this to and fro between the child and the teacher.”

David Anstead, of the Nottingham education improvement board, said teachers and heads were in fear of a visit from Ofsted and so got sucked into paperwork which was sometimes unnecessary.

Absolutely correct in every aspect – of course the Unions didn’t like to be told that what was happening was wrong but hey whoever listens to the unions anyway!

You can read the whole article here:-

Marking – a government view


Pen colours

This has become a mania! I have always marked in red ink – no problem with that. It is easy to read and I can write over everything! This was frowned upon about 10 years ago by “educationalists” who thought red ink was too AGGRESSIVE and that green ink was more calming and less threatening to children. What a load of rubbish and who on earth thinks of this stuff? It was adopted by many many schools for no other reason than those stated…ridiculous!

The next stupidity is the multi coloured pen marking of work. This goes hand in hand with the “detailed feedback” mandate applied by many schools – again with no justification.

Here each colour represents an aspect of usually literacy work and written work should be marked using all these colours – some schools go even further with single or double multi coloured ticks or stars meaning even more differences – where will it end?

pens1The mug picture sums it up really !

As it spirals out of control so does the teachers workload – the task of marking clouds the learning goal of the lesson and becomes an end in itself rather than an objective reflection of the lesson. The size of the problem of course is compounded by both the age and curriculum area – imagine 34 year 5 / 6 pupils all writing 3 or 4 sides of A4 and you get to see the result.

Written feedback

The good old “teacher – pupil dialogue”…. I was speaking to a year 2 teacher the other day who was saying how overworked she felt and all the marking that had to be done. The school was a multi pen marking school with all sorts of wacky signs and symbols and the teacher had to provide detailed feedback to each pupil! Once again another example of the school creating the workload for the teachers.

Lets get a reality check here – The pupils are NOT interested in the detailed feedback that you give – they couldn’t care less and probably wont even bother to read it.

So don’t bother giving it – simple. What you should be doing is this

  • Mark to the lesson objectives only.
  • Perhaps correct a few spelling blunders along the way but its no big deal
  • Be strict on presentation and appearance – but this comes under classroom expectations anyway
  • Don’t be afraid to cross out whole chunks of work or even the whole lot if its rubbish (and say so…ignore the tears)
  • You may comment on for example…great words / phrases, characters etc or a good opener etc in a story but keep it simple and direct.
  • You do need to grade – a simple mark out of 10 is easy to do.

There are 2 things to bear in mind

  1. Have you spotted that the whole class has not understood the concepts…so do you need to re-approach the learning objectives?
  2. Have individuals missed the point? – simply write “see me” and then a reminder word or words for yourself when they come to your desk.

What’s with the grade / mark?

Every curriculum area focus that you do with the children is made up of 2 factors

  1. Knowledge elements
  2. Skill elements

These are the end results that the children should have achieved by the end of the curriculum area focus.

To achieve those goals you will have completed a series of learning objectives in your lessons – and so you need to know how the children have progressed in each of these objectives to be able to finally assess the full set of skills and knowledge….(did that make sense….you get my meaning!)


You need to have started a mark book – if not then buy one from a stationary store – hard backed so it survives the rigours of your classroom. In it stick the names list of your class and subdivide the pages as you go along. At the top of the page you should be writing the curriculum area and then break this down into focus for that term. Here you can write down the learning objectives as you cover them in lessons and also record the children’s scores as they complete the work.

Seem to much – ok let me ask you an example question about your class?

” In your study of forces – which force did the children find hardest to understand?….what work did you cover on this aspect and how do you know it proved the trickiest?”

If you are asked this without having your marked records then you are trying to pull something out of both your memory and the air! If however you can refer to your mark book then you can say ” well we covered this and this and about 3/4 of the class did not achieve what I had expected (marks and activity) – as a result we approached it again from this angle and the results (as shown) were much better.

The fact of giving each piece of work a grade (0-10 is an good spread ) and simply recording this under the learning objective gives you the evidence to speak about this at a later date.

We will be dealing with Assessment in another article but as you can see, they obviously overlap at this point!

Summing up – wow this has been a long article today so apologies for that! I hope this has given you more of an insight into marking and what you should be  directly addressing. If it is possible in your school, avoid all the rubbish that seems to have grown up around the marking of work  and increased your workload exponentially .

Keep it simple, keep it direct and keep a record.

Hope this helps



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