What would you like to see in a marking policy?

I have the unenviable task of creating a new marking policy for my school and as the recent government review into marking highlighted

marking had become a burden that simply must be addressed, not only for those currently in the profession but for those about to enter it.

Dawn Copping, Eliminating unnecessary workload around marking, 2016 

My school has done lots of work over recent years under the premise of “it’s what Ofsted wants” to try and improve responsive marking as we call it rather than marking. It’s one of the first things I think I will need to unpick. Even though Ofsted have released clarification documents seen below, it’s so entrenched into the accepted norm that many people still believe it to be the case.Ofsted inspections - clarification for schools

I am still at the early stages of this, wanting to spend some of the summer break to get this right, although according to the education endowment foundation’s review on the evidence of written marking my chances are slim if I look at the previous education research of what constitutes effective written marking. So I need to try and be a little more creative or look at other sources.

What would you like to see?

I am keen to try and gather as many opinions as possible to try to shape this policy. I would have loved to have the opportunity to do this with the staff at school, but my appointment came too late in the year given that we finished for summer last Friday . So feel free to comment below on what you would like to see in a marking policy or any ideas.

Starting Points

I have been looking at a number of blog posts and one from @teachertoolkit caught my attention. It was a post from a CPD session he conducted called Power from the floor. There are a couple of elements I really like from this. The first being Yellow Box Marking

Yellow Box Marking

This is a technique taken from George Spencer Academy, from which you can download a resource showing it here. I think this is brilliant and almost certainly will form a key aspect of the marking policy I implement.

Yellow Box Marking

Marking Code

We have a sticker culture within our school at the moment. There are stickers for literacy marking, proformas for regular marking, proformas for assessment marking, stickers with different codes for different subjects, its all a bit confusing for anyone let alone the students. So I want to strip this back and have one consistent marking code across the school, so far I am edging towards the following.

Marking Code

I feel this is just about simple enough, covers the main aspects, but is not too much to remember.


Another aspect from @teachertoolkit I really like is the standardised proforma for book looks  he has created. He has one for teachers and then one for a student across subjects. I like this idea a lot, previously we have had a cumbersome proforma for book looks which take’s almost as much time to fill in as to actually complete the book look. His is really quick and simple to fill in with clear next steps.

Next Steps

My next steps are to sit down a little more to really identify exactly what will help our teachers and pupils to make their marking more effective. I will have to make some greater demands on some subjects and reduce the demands for some others, in order to create more consistency, but I want to do it very carefully.


Improving Students Literacy Follow Up

This blog post is a follow-up to my previous blog post on using English teaching techniques in BTEC PE lessons. The original blog post concentrated on opening up the merit criteria for students with very low literacy levels. It concentrated on using the English teaching technique for analysis of text which is P.E.E. paragraphs.


A P.E.E. paragraph gets students to use a writing frame where students write one or two sentences as a point for the P, which I used as a description. Evidence as the E, which I used as an example. Explain for the other E, which I used also as explain. For more information on a P.E.E. paragraph please refer to my previous blog post or there or many videos which explain it further on YouTube.


Obviously with the accountability culture the way it is, merits are not enough in schools now so I had to develop this idea further, opening up the distinction criteria within the writing frame that was created. Within English lessons, they add in an L or A depending on the requirements. The L enables students to link to the original idea or to ‘A’ analyse the explanation thinking about strengths and weaknesses. In the sports leadership unit, I originally applied this technique to, we linked back to how the skill, quality or responsibility was important when leading a sports session. The beauty of this technique is you can switch between analysis and link depending on the requirements of the task, without confusing the students as there is only one aspect that changes.


Adding in the analysis or link aspect proved somewhat successful, but in order to support students further I started using some V.C.O.P. (vocabulary, connectives, openers, punctuality) sheets I downloaded from the TES that were placed on there by susanmclaren66 as extra support, but I soon felt like I was giving too much support to the students, therefore after using V.C.O.P. sheets for one unit we progressed to developing our own ones within small groups, which made students think more about how they would start their sentences and the key vocabulary they would need to use.



As this was proving to be successful with the Level 2 BTEC, I thought I would see if it could be a springboard to improving our Level 3 BTEC grades. We had disappointing results the previous year, albeit with a group that had low prior attainment, gaining an average point score of 199 compared to the national average of 230. We, therefore, knew we needed to change something to deal with the students coming to us to complete Level 3 BTEC with ever decreasing literacy levels.  I used the same core principles as used with the Level 2 BTEC class, but by just expecting more of students for each aspect we were able to move our results to all students within the class gaining a Distinction* thus giving us an average points score of 270 in the space of a year.


With the changes that were made to how you can give feedback for BTEC courses the groundwork that was already put in using this technique and the V.C.O.P. has meant that rather than some students first attempt at a task meeting some elements of the pass criteria and then having to provide further feedback to support them gaining all of the pass criteria then moving onto looking at the merit criteria and so on, which under the need regulations is no longer allowed. Using this technique students were producing work far ahead of where their prior attainment would have placed them. I was then able to utilise peer assessment using the writing frame and student-produced V.C.O.P. sheets as extra guidance for the peer assessment in order for students to improve their work further.

Engagement Session 1

I am in the process of running a series of two sessions on engagement as part of our schools what make great teaching series for the NQT’s. I wanted to start by getting the NQT’s to look at the levels of engagement they felt the students were at within their classes over the period of a week. To do this I used levels I adapted from The Osiris Outstanding Teaching Booklet.

levels of engagement

We then started to look at Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow in a nutshell he defines flow as

“… flow – the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” (Csikzentmihalyi, 1991)

Csikszentmihalyi has eight dimensions of flow

  • Clear goals and immediate feedback
  • Equilibrium between the level of challenge and personal skill
  • Merging action and awareness
  • Focussed concentration
  • Sense of potential control
  • Loss of self-consciousness
  • Time distortion
  • Autotelic or self-rewarding experience

We then analysed what activities each teacher currently had in their toolkit to get classes into flow for at least 15 minutes. This was measured against the following criteria:

  • At least 20 = black belt in creating flow
  • At least 10 – pretty good, but room for more
  • Less than 10 = Creating flow is much harder as students will get bored if you are using the same small number of activities all the time.

The NQT’s then shared their lists with each other to try and get some new activities to try. I then shared one of my favourite activities for creating flow, which are learning grids.

We then looked at things that trigger intrinsic motivation and discussed eight triggers

  1. Rapport
  2. Competence
  3. Curiosity
  4. Imagination
  5. Relevance
  6. Challenge
  7. Choice
  8. Fun

We then ranked from the strongest to weakest from their own person point of view and then what they feel they foster in their own teaching. We then discussed how people might ensure there are as many of the triggers as possible within a series of lessons.

Overall it got people thinking about really analysing the way they set their lessons up to foster engagement within their pupils. This will be followed up next week by looking at where there is disengagement and how this can be combated.

Update on Assessing Without Levels

We have been busy developing and tweaking the way we are assessing without levels at my school. We are using the GCSE practical PE grading criteria as that’s the route the head of PE wanted to go down. We also have a whole school system set up on top that looks at the progress each individual student makes for every subject. This is rated using Bronze, SIlver, Gold & Platinum.

  • Bronze = No Progress
  • Silver = Some Progress
  • Gold = Good/expected Progress
  • Platinum = Exceptional Progress

We have therefore adapting students end of the previous year levels and given them equivalent GCSE Practical grades.

  • Exceptional Performance = 8
  • Level 8 = 7
  • Level 7 = 6
  • Level 6 = 5
  • Level 5 = 4
  • Level 4 = 3
  • Level 3 = 2
  • Level 2 = 1

Alongside this we have recently been developing criteria that is adapted by sport to make it easier for us. Here is the football one I have developed, it still needs some tweaking, but it is a starting point for us.

Football GCSE Assessment

Its still not perfect, but its getting there, be great to hear what everyone else is doing.

Getting the Most out of Your Marking

I recently hosted an NQT session on getting the most out of your marking. We have been having a drive on marking at school over the past year and we have seen improvements, although we have also seen people marking too much. I therefore wanted to tailor this session towards making marking easier rather than cumbersome. I started this session by looking at Dylan William and what he says about feedback.

This prompted some nice discussion about how to ensure the feedback you as a teacher put on students work makes them think. I believe this is a useful question to ask yourself while marking work. Is this making them think? We then looked at Ron Berger’s Austin’s Butterfly video. This just reminded me how powerful it is to look at this if you have not done previously.

Having looked at the principles behind good feedback in the form or marking, we then went on the explore some different strategies to enable that to happen, without you as the teacher working too hard. We looked at 4 strategies in detail:

  • 5 Minute Check
  • Gallery Critique
  • Triple Impact Marking
  • Close the Gap Marking

5 Minute Check

This strategy involves you taking a cross section of books 5/6 across the full abilities of your class. Doing this enables you to look at how a range of student’s performed in the previous lesson, in addition to spotting some common trends for areas for development. You then choose one piece of work as an exemplar for the class to critique at the start of the next lesson. I like to type this up, but you can also photocopy it. In doing this you model an improvement together. The students can then return to their own work and complete the same process or you can bring in peer marking to critique the work.

Gallery Critique

We have all been there, setting a class off the peer mark, knowing there are some students who are not very good at it and some are very good at it. It is difficult to train student’s as peer markers, but by using this technique you can in addition to being able to differentiate for your weaker markers. This technique takes on Ron Berger’s ‘Kind, Specific and Helpful’ mantra. You assign students at either kind, specific or helpful markers giving them some prompts such as these below.

Kind, Specific Helpful

In doing this student’s will gain feedback from three different people, but also it will be feedback that is more effective than students left to their own devices with success criteria.

Triple Impact Marking

We also looked at triple impact marking via David Didau here

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 21.27.40

Closing the Gap Marking

Closing the gap marking was looked at courtesy of Tom Sherrington here

5 Minute Marking Plan

The NQT’s were set off with a task to go away and use the 5 Minute Marking plan courtesy of @TeacherToolkit and @LeadingLearner to see if any aspects of it they could find helpful to ensure that marking becomes planning for them.

Click to download the template

Overall the session was well received and all NQT’s were able to take something from it to go away and try.

Is evidence based practice right for everyone?

I would welcome people’s thoughts on this.

This blog post isn’t designed to be full of theory and backed up by evidence, it is merely something that I have been thinking about for a while now.

Lots of ‘tweachers’ have been taking to twitter to talk about their passion for evidence based practice in teaching and their desires for more of it in their school, some extremely passionately. There have also been numerous blog posts on this subject, all seeming to outline the positives of using evidence in your teaching and the drawbacks of not. I do agree there are lots of benefits to using evidence in your practice and some drawbacks to not, this is not what I am disagreeing with here.

I am disagreeing that evidence based research is right for everyone all of the time. If we always sought to find the evidence to back up an idea to improve out practice, wouldn’t we lose creativity and new inspiring ideas? Beyond this though, is it right for everyone? I know many very effective teachers who have extremely strong opinions on this subject. They feel that they should not be directed or encouraged to base their practice on evidence as they will use evidence if and when they see fit. Does this make them any less of an effective teacher? I would argue no, could evidence help them to become a more effective teacher? Maybe it could or maybe it would just waste their time as their heart is not in it. I guess what I am getting at here is professional development is about personal choice, I am concerned that this drive to add more evidence based practice to the profession will alienate some brilliant teachers who hate research.


Getting outside speakers into schools

UCAS is open for students to log on to start their applications for September 2015 and AS and A2 exams are over, this can only mean one thing. Start preparing students for life after sixth form! We run a month long programme to try to do this in the summer between year 12 and 13 and then pick it up throughout year 13. It is something we started to develop last year, but have improved considerably this year. We have found the best way to deliver some of this information to our students is through getting outside speakers in. This is easier said than done with little or no budget, but it can be done.

We have identified some key areas to focus on in order to support students with decisions about their future:

  • University
  • Apprenticeships
  • World of Work
  • Gap Year
  • Volunteering
  • Life Skills

Like most sixth forms we do the usual UCAS sessions, personal statements etc. It is our work for the other areas that is the most exciting this year.

For apprenticeships we are hosting an apprenticeships networking session, we have used a website called inspiring the future to help us find people who either offer apprenticeships or have been through apprenticeships to speak to our students in a speed dating type format coming up. We used this website last year to provide our students with a mock interviews day, which we are running again this year, as it proved to be very useful for the students.

If you have not had a chance to log onto inspiring the future I highly recommend you do. It has hundreds of professionals who have put themselves on there as willing to volunteer to go into schools and all you have to do is send them an email to ask them to come in. I have about 25 people from national and international business coming into the sixth form in a one week period thanks to this website, to work with our students.

I am looking to progress this on further to get some people in for my PE classes although people in the sporting field is limited as it stands at the moment, but as with everything its all about building connections.


Assessment without Levels in PE, Some Ideas.

Now that exam pressures are easing, we like many schools are looking forward to next year, trying to learn from our mistakes of this year and put things in place to improve. This year marks some big changes the new curriculum and assessing without levels probably being the biggest. At a meeting last week we started discussing assessing without levels and how we might go about it in the PE faculty area in conjunction with the creative arts faculty area. We are only at the stage of putting ideas down at the moment, so don’t expect to see perfect finished articles yet. From some of the ideas I have played around with throughout the year and in discussion with other members of my faculty I have produced five different ideas. There is one running theme throughout the five ideas I have produced and that is the areas they are looking at. I  have come up with core areas that I believe should be assessed in this new curriculum. I did this with some help from this document titled National Curriculum: Physical Education – Analysis Across the Key Stages on the AfPE website. I came up with the following core areas:

  • Technique
  • Using Skills & Tactics
  • Analysis & Evaluation
  • Problem Solving
  • Health & Fitness
  • Challenge
  • Preparation for Life & Participation

No doubt if we decide to run with these they will be tweaked and adapted once we sit down as a faculty and look at these carefully, but they are a starting point. There is a pdf link showing the five ideas at the end in one document.

The first idea I came up with was to use to concept of Solo Taxonomy as a way to assess students and also to make it very clear what a student needs to improve on.

idea 1


The next idea is one based upon something that has been spoken about as a possibility of whole school assessment, bronze, silver, gold, platinum. I personally am not a fan of this as I feel it is too narrow.

idea 2

There has been talk more recently of this being used in the format of a student will be gold if they are achieving as they are expected to and platinum if they are exceeding expectations. This seems a little better, but still requires some form of data behind it to show what a student should be achieving, so it has its flaws, I feel this could be used nicely alongside an assessment model.

The third idea is my favoured idea, which shows the assessment as a process, with no levels given to the student, they just see they are currently in  box X and to get to the next box they need to do Y. Since quickly drawing this up, I have had the idea that a pathway may be a clearer way of presenting it.

idea 3

This fourth idea was put forward by a member of my faculty. In our school we currently have our levels attached to colours, this idea related around using the colours instead of numbers. I personally do not believe this is the answer because it is just calling levels something different.

idea 4


Finally there was a suggestion by my head of faculty on using the GCSE practical grading criteria within Key Stage 3. This is something that is already set up and would not take a lot of effort to put into place, in addition to ensuring the pupils are familiar with it when they come to take GCSE PE. Although I do not believe it meets the aims of the DfE for removing levels.

idea 5

It would be great to see what some other people out there are doing and ideas that are being bounced around for assessing without levels, both within PE and whole school. As I mentioned we are only at the beginning of this process, but I would welcome any feedback.

PE Assessment Ideas

Should we develop teacher’s mindset before we consider CPD?

Recently there have been many discussions across twitter revolving around staff CPD. Several of these discussions looked at the best CPD staff have ever experienced, with the agreement being that many whole staff Inset days are seen as irrelevant and had little impact on teachers performance in the classroom beside one or two exceptions to the rule. There were many varying suggestions but the consensus being that CPD needs to be personalised to the needs of the school, staff and the pupils within the school.

123 2134 Presentation1

I am fortunate enough to work in a school that has a coaching programme focussing on five broad areas each half term (Assessment for Learning, Behaviour for Learning, Challenge & Differentiation, Engagement & Motivation and Evidence into Practice). Members of staff get to select area they go into and choose within that area what they work on. This has improved the standards of teaching and learning within the school, but there is still some way to go. The engagement of staff within this programme varies greatly from staff members that actively go above and beyond the coaching programme to staff who refuse to connect with the process. The reasons behind this disengagement vary, but it has got me thinking. Is just providing a platform for staff to undertake CPD enough, or should we focus more on gaining staff engagement in their own CPD?

John Hattie suggested getting teachers to become “leaders of their teaching” through research involvement was key, but I would go further, getting teachers to become leaders of their own learning would enable them to become leaders of their teaching. But is research involvement necessarily the right way to go about it? The term research involvement may put people off, I know a couple of years ago it would have put me off. I now know the small little projects and tweaks to my pedagogy that I undertook in my early career were akin to mini pieces of informal research, but if someone had of mentioned that phrase to me I would have ran a mile. I was focused on what was

going to give my students the best outcomes (and make my job easier), I didn’t want to read lots of literature around pedagogy, I felt I had completed enough reading during my degree, that I did not need to do this, but I still wanted to improve my teaching and it did.

It was only my discovery of twitter and after engaging in professional discussions with other teachers via twitter, that I really engaged in driving forwards my own professional development. Since then I have begun to appreciate much more the value of literature on pedagogy and the different varieties of CPD available to me as a teacher. Without this further engagement in my professional development and understanding of its real effect I do not believe I would have engaged as readily in the coaching programme we have at school. I was interested to read this twitter post below from @NTENetwork.


I am actually surprised they did not receive a whole host of re-tweets and favourites, as I believe they are onto something. As teachers we spend countless lessons trying to engage students emotions into the topic or subject, so why do we not value that when we talk about staff CPD? How a school would go about doing that would vary depending on the local conditions, but I believe it is something worth considering when planning any CPD.

Should schools provide more variety of CPD? Will that help to engage teachers emotions? If we are aiming to make CPD personalised, than variety is an aspect that surely needs to be considered. Do all teachers know what is out there for them though? I don’t believe they do, something as simple as this from @informed_edu could be a starting point to discussing with teachers the CPD they wanted.


Although not an exhaustive list it does provide a very good starting point for providing variety. It may go some way to engaging teachers emotions also.

So far we have suggested that staff need to have CPD personalised to their own and the students needs, and that CPD should engage the teachers emotions, is that enough? By doing this will we solve the CPD debate? In my humble opinion no. Giving staff choice about an area of practice they would like to improve is all well and good, but will they pick the area they really need to focus on? Some may, others especially those staff Dweck would say have a fixed mindset are likely to not. They are likely to choose an area that they are already good at to validate their beliefs about their ability or they will put little effort into the process. If schools concentrated firstly on helping staff to engage in CPD, whole heartedly wanting to improve in a growth mindset, would the CPD they participate in help them make significant gains in student outcomes? I believe it would.