What is it like marking work in the UK school system? The answer varies between Primary and Secondary so Ash and Tyler have broken these down for you…

Primary School Marking Tips and Expectations:

The expectation in Primary schools is that you mark the work that you set in a day. Regardless of whether you are teaching in a long-term placement or supply,  it is important that you know what the marking policy is at the school. If you are in a long-term placement ask another teacher if you can look through their books so you can see the standard of marking. If you are a day to day supply teacher flick through the books to give you an understanding of what is expected of you. Generally speaking, English, Maths and RE (If it is a faith school) require the most thorough and in-depth marking.

There aren’t many teachers out there who like to stay back late marking books after school or on weekends. I was a Primary School supply teacher for a fair few years and prided myself on not staying back for hours after school marking books. Here are some of my tips:

  • ALWAYS have a pen in your hand to mark as you walk around the class, you will thank yourself later.
  • Work out the answers to the maths work before the lesson and mark as they work (if you have an answer book use that)
  • Peer Assessment
  • Self Assessment
  • Correct the English work as they do it meaning you only need to put a comment at the end
  • If you have a TA and they are working with a small group ask them to mark that work
  • Be on top of your behaviour management, this will allow you to walk around the room and mark throughout the lesson
  • Make a big deal about good work while you walk around marking, this will improve the behaviour and quality of work
  • Spend your lunchtimes and breaks marking
  • Have the children leave the books open to the page they were working on and pile them up like that, it saves time
  • The key is to stay on top of it! If you get snowed under with marking it can be really time-consuming and will eat into your planning time. In my opinion, effective marking is marking that is done while the children are working, they like immediate feedback too.

Secondary School Marking Tips and Expectations:

Marking plays a central role in teachers’ work and is frequently the focus of lively debate. It can provide important feedback to pupils and help teachers identify pupil misunderstanding.

Whilst working as a daily supply teacher within the UK, it will be your responsibility to ensure that the students are engaging in their work throughout the lesson, however, you do not have the expectation to mark the students’ books/work at the end of the class. Different to a Primary setting, this responsibility will is bestowed upon the regular classroom teacher. If answers are left however on daily supply, do ensure you manage the timing of the lesson to allow time to go through.

In an on-going post or in extended block placements, however, you take on the responsibility of ensuring that all the student’s work is marked. It is important that you are following the marking policy of your school & you are adhering to the expectations around feedback.

Marking comes with the territory of teaching but, as the weather gets better, most of us would rather avoid spending all evening with only a set of books for company. I have laid out 8 clear points which can help you mark more efficiently & allow more time to focus on your teaching.

1. Stop writing too much

Over-marking can take the responsibility away from students, reduce their motivation and make them less resilient. So it’s reasonable to save your wrist.

2. Careless mistakes don’t need to be corrected

You shouldn’t correct a student’s work where they have merely made a careless mistake, mark the error don’t worry about correcting it. Instead of correcting individual mistakes, a discussion or starter set at the beginning of class will highlight the teaching point, if it is class wide. If the mistake is individual, eg. a student confusing ‘there’ and ‘their’ – instead of correcting throughout, give the correct usage and set a task/question to ensure their understanding & engagement with your marking.

3. Don’t grade every piece of work

Students tend to focus disproportionately on the grade and are less likely to take note of the formative advice.

4. Stop doing the tick and flick

There’s pretty much no evidence to suggest that acknowledgement marking (the tick-and-flick approach) has any impact.

5. Be led by pupils’ needs

Variation in practice, where led by student need, is the best approach to take.

6. Don’t believe misconceptions about Ofsted

Ofsted, like any perceived villain of the piece, tends to generate a lot of rumours and misunderstanding. The guidance, though, is clear: they have no specific expectations in terms of frequency, quantity, type or volume of marking. They do, however, expect to see teachers adhering to their school’s assessment policy, so this is another one which relies on the leadership.

7. Realise that marking is not the be all and end all

If the hours spent do not have the commensurate impact on student progress, stop doing it.

8. Encourage Peer Marking

Aside from formal assessment, utilize the class to mark their peers’ work. This can be used as a learning tool between students to highlight areas of strength and weakness across the class.

Getting the right balance between time spent marking and offering quality feedback can be tricky. Try to implement some of the tips list above & see if they can improve the efficiency of your marking

Following peer marking, an open discussion around areas that students struggled can further inform planning and differentiation.