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Guidance for NUT Members on

Reasonable Marking Arrangements
Introduction
Marking pupils’ work has always been a core element of a teacher’s role. Marking is
a professional activity which should be undertaken by teachers in accordance with
their knowledge and expertise. In recent years, however, concerns about excessive
requirements in respect of marking pupils’ work have become more acute, with the
introduction of draconian ‘deep’, ‘double’ or even ‘triple’ marking policies. These are
often combined with regular and often unannounced ‘book looks’.
Such
developments can undermine teachers’ professional autonomy, leaving them
constantly on edge, fearful of scrutiny and under pressure to mark excessively, often
with no educational benefit.
Excessive marking requirements cause additional unnecessary workload but are
also indicative of an accountability system that no longer trusts and respects
teachers.
This document sets out:



how marking requirements have effectively got ‘out of control;
how the Government and Ofsted have responded to NUT pressure, albeit
belatedly;
NUT views on reasonable expectations in respect of marking polices; and
how NUT members can act collectively to protect themselves from excessive
marking requirements.

There are indications that, thanks to NUT pressure, both the Government and Ofsted
now admit that there is a problem with excessive marking and are beginning to make
concessions. These concessions are described later in this document and should be
used by NUT members to bring about change in school marking requirements.
What have members told us about marking expectations in their school?

that there are often ridiculous expectations to mark every piece of work, not to
benefit students, but to provide as evidence in the event of an Ofsted visit;

that it can be seen as more important to show evidence of a dialogue with
students than to actually have a dialogue with them;

that it does not always serve an educational purpose and is sometimes
‘marking for marking’s sake’;

(The top unnecessary and unproductive task was ‘inputting.uk/government/publications/workloadchallenge-for-schools-government-response. that there can be unreasonable expectations that a comment will be included on every item of writing. give examples of practical measures that schools have undertaken in order to reduce unnecessary workload.). and in relation specifically to marking it made no proposals. The response does.. punctuation and grammar). e. The volume of marking was an issue for many respondents. and verbal feedback  that ultimately where marking policies are over-complicated they may be used to make it more difficult for teachers to meet appraisal objectives and thus lead to denial of pay progression. two stars and a wish.  that if too much time is spent on marking. despite the fact that excessive marking was shown to be the second most burdensome activity in which teachers were involved.g.gov. SPG (spelling. respondents commonly reported working late into the evening and at weekends to ensure that all marking was completed on time. which teachers and head teachers are urged to consider. You can view this document at www. causing unnecessary and unproductive workload. With very little time available within lessons or school hours for marking. however. How did the Government respond to these findings? The Government’s response to the findings of the Workload Challenge was disappointing generally. in terms of detail and frequency required. commonly reported to be hundreds of books per week/fortnight. use of highlights. mentioned by 56 per cent of respondents.  that there are regular changes to marking policies requiring previous marking to be re-marked in line with the new policy. Respondents were asked about tasks contributing to unnecessary and unproductive workload and two specific tasks were reported as being burdensome for the majority of sample respondents.  that marking policies can be over-complicated. What are Ofsted’s expectations about marking? .  that it is too time-consuming . DfE Workload Challenge Survey 2014 Further evidence about the impact of excessive marking on teachers emerged from the DfE’s Workload Challenge consultation which ran between 22 October and 21 November 2014.marking every piece of work every day for 30 children can take two to three hours per day. These include a recommendation for ‘sparing use of more detailed marking and written feedback’. This was highlighted by 53 per cent of respondents. monitoring and analysing data’. The second most ‘unnecessary and unproductive task’ listed was excessive marking. there is no time left for planning. at Annex C.

Regular marking will enhance learning by helping pupils to improve their work and will inform teacher . In its March 2015 ‘Clarification for Schools’. type or volume of marking and feedback. which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in different ways. 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.  While inspectors will consider how written and oral feedback are used to promote learning.  Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils. Ofsted does not expect to see any written record of oral feedback provided to pupils by teachers. are important aspects of assessment. Ofsted makes clear that “it is up to schools themselves to determine their practices and for leadership teams to justify these on their own merits. reproduced below. school management can no longer use Ofsted as the justification for unreasonable marking requirements.Ofsted does not set out particular expectations in relation to marking. in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning. Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency. and what the next steps are in their learning. then it must be prepared to defend the decision itself. they will pay careful attention to the way recommendations are written to ensure that these do not drive unnecessary workload for teachers.  If it is necessary for inspectors to identify marking as an area for improvement for a school. However. What would constitute reasonable marking arrangements? It is reasonable to establish a consistent approach to the way in which pupils’ work is marked so that students feel valued and have a clear understanding of how well they are doing. rather than by reference to the inspection handbook”. has been considerably expanded to reflect concerns about unnecessary workload related to marking and the role of Ofsted in this. What exactly does Ofsted say about pupils’ work? Set out below is the relevant extract from the March 2015 ‘Ofsted Inspections – Clarification for Schools’ document. If school management wishes to introduce a new marking initiative. So. both written and oral. rather than blame Ofsted. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy. Pupils’ Work  Ofsted does not expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders. This document was originally published in October 2014 and it is notable that the section on marking. these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy.

unless there are particular concerns about a teacher. sometimes it is appropriate for the teacher to mark alongside the pupil. Is there any evidence base for this approach? No. for the pupil to mark their own work. they should be infrequent and followed up by high quality professional dialogue. The colour of the pen does not matter so long as it is in contrast to the pupil’s writing. It is a strategy adopted by schools. It is clear from the thousands of responses to the NUT’s 2014 Workload Survey. Beyond these basic principles. are advised to highlight the Government-endorsed suggestion in the Workload Challenge response that there should be ‘sparing use of more detailed marking and written feedback’. Teachers who come under pressure to mark in too detailed a way. NUT members need to help bring about change by discussing in NUT groups what changes they would like to see implemented. It is also known as ‘deep’ marking. Unless there is a specific school-wide reason for conducting a book look. that it is a major course of excessive workload. Where marking policies do not seem to be supportive of learning. If ‘book looks’ do take place.planning and assessment. making changes to marking policies is unlikely to happen simply as a result of head teachers receiving the Ofsted clarification. or for pupils to mark each other’s work. . and from responses to the Government’s Workload Challenge. It will also help parents to understand their child’s strengths and areas that need to be developed. the NUT believes it is up to teachers to exercise their professional autonomy as to the frequency and type of marking that is appropriate. See section below on our Action Short of Strike Action (ASOS) campaign for information on how to do this. before raising these with management. to which the teacher then responds. it is important that NUT members are able to challenge this. according to their own professional judgement. there is no reason to conduct them on a school-wide basis. However. What is triple marking? Triple marking involves teachers writing detailed feedback about a pupil’s work. partly in response to the frequency with which new inspection frameworks have been introduced. The principles of proportionality and professional dialogue should always be followed. Marking does not always have to be undertaken by the teacher alone. as described above. but there is plenty of evidence that it is detrimental to teachers’ working lives and of unproven benefit to pupils. What is the NUT’s view on ‘book looks’? These should be kept to a minimum. on which the pupil writes comments. Are all schools aware of what Ofsted has said about marking? They should be as Nicky Morgan has written to all schools.

alongside NASUWT members.teachers.org. NUT members have recourse to the Action Short of Strike Action (ASOS) programme which allows NUT members.uk/asos) allow members to refuse to implement existing and new management-led policies and working practices which have not been workload impact assessed and agreed by the NUT. or the concerns of NUT members? In such cases.What if school management refuses to act on either the Ofsted guidance. . the Government-endorsed good practice in Annex C of the Workload Challenge findings. Our ASOS instructions (see www. to refuse to participate in particular activities which generate excessive and unnecessary workload and/or have no educational benefit.