Reducing Time Spent On Marking

THIS may help some teachers to reduce the time spent marking student work. My timetable at the moment has 11 different classes where I have between 23-30 students in each. It dawned on me a while back that I was spending way too much time writing out the same information over and over again. I decided to come up with a system to ensure that I wrote less, the students worked harder and that they thought more deeply about their learning in order to make further progress.

THIS is my system;

  1. For every period of work that needs marking I create a list of codes that represent mistakes that have been made within the period of time since the book was last marked. The codes will also give learners the opportunity understand how they can make further progress. This is a Year 7 marking code that I recently created. This takes only a few minutes and often develops as I mark the books depending on the need of the group.markingcodesimage
  2. I then get each student to write out the comment/question using the code that has been placed in their books (green pen = teacher, red pen = student). This will ensure that while they are writing the comment/question they are also thinking about what it says more deeply than just skim reading it.
  3. Students then respond to the question that has been set (EBI). This will mean that the student is either correcting some work that was wrong or commenting themselves on how they can achieve the higher stage in learning.
  4. Completing marking this way ensures that I cut down my time marking and the students are given more thought time to think how they will approach the task of improving their work.
  5. The two examples, shown below, are from a middle-‘ish’ Year 7 set and these students are middle-‘ish’ based on ability.markingimage3markingimage2
  6. After the students have responded at the start of the lesson, I will then go around and check that the response is appropriate for their ability. This is usually carried out while students are completing the next learning activity. It further allows additional formative verbal dialogue between myself and the student.

Finally; THIS is a comment from Sean Harford (HMI National Director Education) again making it clear to inspectors that Ofsted do not look for any particular type of marking frequency. This update has been published to try and ensure that inspectors and schools are aware that marking quantity or depth is NOT proven to raise standards.

‘I remain concerned that we continue to see some inspection reporting which gives the impression that more detailed or more elaborate marking is required, or indeed that it is effective in promoting pupils’ achievement. Inspectors must not give the impression that marking needs to be undertaken in any particular format and to any particular degree of sophistication or detail… there is remarkably little high quality, relevant research evidence to suggest that detailed or extensive marking has any significant impact on pupils’ learning. So until such evidence is available, and regardless of any area for improvement identified at the School previous inspection, please do not report on marking practice, or make judgement on it, other than whether it follows the school’s assessment policy’. (Ofsted, School Inspection Update, November 2016 | Issue 8)


Leading The Standard For Teachers Professional Development

July 2016 saw the publication from the DFE of the new TeacherStandards_July2016.

THIS is what the new standards suggest to me. I have highlighted some specific detail in the link, some of which I would like to comment on.

A teachers professional development in my view should be based on 2 main objectives. The first objective should be set around how that specific person would like to develop their career and to learn how to improve so that they can excel at their craft of being a teacher. The second should be based around how to ensure the aspirational progress of all learners within that teachers care (very much linked in to the first objective). This objective should also promote the priorities of the school in which they work. These objectives are often broken down further as part of an appraisal cycle. However, I do believe that those who lead professional development in schools should ‘balance school, subject and individual teacher priorities‘ with sensitivity and challenge to ensure successful outcomes for ALL teaching staff and learners.

These are the the excerpts that I would like to make a comment on from the document:

‘A shared commitment for teachers to support one another to develop so that pupils benefit from the highest quality teaching’.

‘Ofsted put it their September 2015 handbook, “a motivated, respected and effective teaching staff” in “a culture that enables pupils and staff to excel”. Meaning that leadership not only prioritise the operational aspects of teacher development’.

‘Activities to form part of a sustained programme, typically for more than two terms… includes opportunities for experimentation, reflection, feedback and evaluation’.

‘effective leadership of professional development… develops genuine professional trust’.

I believe that these are the most important points in the document due to the strong leadership that would be required to make professional development a positive ongoing experience. I have seen, and have anecdotally been told of, leadership in schools which may struggle to promote a culture which enables these professional development standards to be an effective source of improvement. It could be argued that schools where leadership does not harness a culture of professional trust use professional development in a negative way, in direct conflict to using it as a positive tool to embed sustainable improvement.

I have often talked about how leadership should promote collegiate approaches in their schools where colleagues work together to improve towards a common goal. Ultimately this is to provide the best standard of education possible and to achieve challenging outcomes. One final important comment to evaluate is that teachers should be encouraged to take risks and reflect upon improvements that need to be made within a supportive environment. At my current school this was very much the flavour of a recent training session where the focus was planning towards the new academic year and the encouragement of taking risks within our observed teaching.

THIS is what I hope is the genuine way forward for the continual professional development for ALL teachers.


Working For ASDAN Education

THIS is about the last couple of years where I have had the pleasure of working for ASDAN, an educational awarding body and registered charity. It is with the regret that I now leave ASDAN to pursue other opportunities in education and my passion for teaching and learning.

My role has been as a National Development Co-ordinator working with schools to develop curriculum’s and resources for teachers across the UK. The main part of this role was to develop and deliver training events for the professional development of school and further education practitioners. Comments from delegates can be found here. I have loved my time working with ASDAN for several reasons, but when I reflect upon my experiences these are the two main reasons why ASDAN stands out as a #GreatEducation organisation with real positive vision, values and #EduPurpose.

Firstly, you can follow ASDAN on twitter @asdaneducation. If you work in education and care about equipping young people with the skills for lifelong learning in the 21st Century, I would highly recommend that you do this. One of ASDAN’s main aims is to make learning relevant and transferable & to reward a range of learning styles. Through doing this they recognise that young people do genuinely have different learning needs! With the very narrow curriculum focus in the current educational landscape it is important to keep in mind that ASDAN are still sticking to their educational values of creating varied learning experiences for ALL learners, while celebrating the diversity that exists in young people. I have found it really refreshing to work with teaching professionals across the UK who also believe in this. I feel that my work has given me the opportunity to provide advice and guidance to improve the life chances of so many young people.

Secondly, working at the central office in Bristol with such a talented group of people (including those based around the UK) has given me the opportunity to grow professionally as a teacher. If are interested in education and you ever have the opportunity to work for ASDAN you should seriously consider it. The leadership style is that of empowering people to manage their time, contribute and share their own ideas. The directors are supportive and encourage a collegiate approach to achieving the organisations vision and values. In my opinion this is exactly how any organisation should be run and it makes the individual feel valued. My experience has been that the directors do not constantly check or monitor progress but trust employees as professionals in their individual field/specialism. I hope that I have repaid the faith placed in me as I think that I have been pro-active in meeting the needs of the organisation? I believe my colleagues would agree with me that this leadership style makes employees feel motivated to go the extra mile to be the best that they can be for the organisation.

THIS is therefore the end of a hugely enjoyable and rewarding professional chapter in my life. I want to thank every one of my colleagues at ASDAN (and those recently moved on) for contributing to a great experience. Over the past week or so, the comments that I have received from so many colleagues have been overwhelming. The comments have also given me the extra bit of confidence to know that how I conduct myself, how I interact with others and my work ethic are positive personal traits that should help me in the future as a teacher or as a school leader. Those people know who they are, so thank you so much. You will never truly know what that means to me!

It would however be remiss of me to not thank the following people individually who I have worked very closely with;

Maggie and Kath for ALL your support as line managers, as colleagues and I hope now as friends.

Kath and Sally for hiring me in the first place!

Jemma for your continuous offer of coffee, who will make it now? Oh… and sorry if the logo does not meet requirements! 😉

Julia for being a critical friend… your help in the early days was really useful. 🙂

Rob for your computing/coding/on-line teachings.

Kiel for introducing me to Minecraft and simply for being the only other Yorkshireman in the office!

Finally, Simon for making the early morning coffee to make us feel alive at 7:30am when we start work. Also for being a great guy to share a workspace (and lately a car) with on a daily basis… thanks for putting up with me!

Goodbye all at ASDAN! 🙂


Featured Image: Gained from ASDAN Design.

Creating A More Supportive Education System

THIS blog revisits so many of my earlier blogs about the state of education and the incessant drive by the current government to test, drive teachers by accountability measures and to pigeonhole schools, teachers and young people into categories. By categories I am talking about giving a ‘badge of honour’ (for the best or elite) or a ‘tag’ (for the lowest achieving), for the young person as an A* to G (or soon to be 9-1 at GCSE) learner or, a teacher/school being outstanding to requiring improvement/special measures. As a teacher/leader I am totally in agreement that we need to have high expectations, we need to challenge young people and we need to continually engage with CPD to improve and provide the highest quality of teaching possible. However I am becoming increasingly perplexed by the perceived constant need to put people and organisations into categories. Why do we as a country continually feel the need to label everything. Well I know for sure that when we label people or organisations it stops us being the best we can be.

Let me explain…

When we give an child an aspirational target of say a B grade which is based on previous data etc, we are actually saying to that child that this is their ceiling. What is truly an ‘aspiration’ is saying to them that the they need to be the best that they can be. As teachers we should be challenging the learner to be better and consistently encouraging them to get the very highest grade that is available. Not all will make it but I believe that if you aim for the stars then as a teacher you are actually creating more of a chance that they will land on the moon! My teaching ethos has always been to continually focus on improvement through formative assessment without worrying too much about the actual grade. I would go so far as saying that it is my belief that I would only do summative assessments if it will genuinely ensure that it will move the child forward, which in turn becomes more of a formative that summative assessment. My success in developing learners to achieve higher grades than they ever thought possible pays testament to this theory. I am heartened to hear that many schools and colleges are now moving towards less summative assessment (possibly one a term) and concentrating on improving the young persons ability and skills to learn through peer and self assessment. I know that this does create better independent learners who take more responsibility for their own learning and achieve better academic success.

I am also heartened to read and hear more stories of schools abandoning lesson observations that have a grade attached. This is a great move forward in my view as it will create a much more collegiate way of improving teaching and learning through teachers and leaders having a genuine and constructive dialog of the teaching that is taking place. It has to be carried out in a way that encourages and supports the development of the teacher. Not giving a grade allows the focus to move away from the despair of a potentially negative grade based largely on a very subjective opinion. Of course even constructive feedback is subjective, but the more variety of opinions that are brought into the mix through a truly collegiate approach will raise the standards of teaching and help teachers to become better and create the highest standards of education. For leaders, if that is not encouraging them to improve or having high expectations of their staff then I don’t what would be?

An article written in the TES recently discusses similar principles to those explained in this blog. The article focuses on the theory that OUR education system should be built upon the values of support, encouragement and empathy.

THIS blog is about what I believe would help create a more supportive education system.


P.s. I make no excuse for missing out the word ‘rigour’ in this blog. The word means “the quality of being extremely thorough and careful“, “severity or strictness” or “harsh and demanding conditions” as cited in the Oxford Dictionaries. My feeling is that it is a word that is only being used when showing a punitive approach by leaders. The only meaning I can relate my own values to is to be ‘thorough’ in my work.

Education: Curriculum Reform Not Just Exam Reform!

Source of featured image

McDonald’s along with several organisations from the world of business and education have taken part in a public consultation about producing a plan for recognising, developing and measuring soft skills at every stage of education and work. The ‘Backing Soft Skills’ consultation report can be seen via this link McDs-Backing-Soft-Skills which was released on the 1st July.

THIS blog is about why I am pleased that I have had the opportunity to contribute to this consultation. Several of my comments have been used within the conclusions document produced by McDonald’s in preparation for the final consultation report. This document was emailed to with me in May. It can be seen via this link Backing Soft Skills – Conclusions of McDonald’s Stakeholder Consultation and Roundtable

I would like to see that this consultation is used as part of a movement to have a more balanced educational curriculum that involves academic, vocational and skills based learning having equal standing. I am not on my own in my thinking! Vocational and skills learning is being called for as part of a broad educational curriculum throughout business and education organisations.

The first piece of joined up thinking is through the McDonald’s consultation where 4 recommendations have been made;

1) Create a framework for defining, developing and assessing (formally and informally) at every stage of education and work.

2) Embed Soft Skills into education and work.

3) Improve links between business, education, JobCentre Plus and the youth and voluntary sectors.

4) Encourage government departments to join up more.

The second piece of joined up thinking came on the 19th June when the ASCL published a response by General Secretary Brian Lightman to a speech made by John Cridland (CBI Director General) where he stated;

“We agree with John Cridland that the education system needs curriculum reform and not just exam reform. He calls for the creativity of teachers to be unleashed to put in place a curriculum for 14-18 year olds which has the space for a personalised approach mixing key academic and vocational options.

“ASCL proposes that review of the core curriculum should take place only once in the course of any parliament and be the responsibility of a Commission made up of school leaders, governors, teachers, parents, industry and politicians. Beyond that core curriculum schools would determine their own curriculum, giving greater room for creativity and innovation.

“We also agree with Mr Cridland that an overhaul of careers advice is needed. This is an under-funded area, and yet it is a crucial element in ensuring young people are prepared for life.

“Mr Cridland calls for education to be everyone’s business. That is right. It is vital to the future of the country and everybody is a stakeholder.

“We welcome the commitment employers have been showing to work with schools.”


THIS is why a broad and balanced curriculum is important. It has been reported that the lack of skills in the UK work force costs business about £88 billion per year. Furthermore it is stopping people of all ages being able to get jobs or be promoted. The worst affected are young people coming straight out of education.

For me the whole point of education is to be work ready and to have the skills to be an effective citizen. Academic skills are very important too. I have always struggled with memory recall and wish that I could remember things for longer. That however may be an issue created by the exam system in itself. I seem to be able to store information for a week or so, then it just goes! Maybe that is because of the revision style I was encouraged to adopt to make sure that I was ready to pass the exams that I did take?

THIS is what has been missed by the current government (and past government over the last 5 years). In my opinion they have concentrated so much on exam reform and narrowing the curriculum choice, that they have missed the real point of education.

I have produced a few blogs suggesting how the educational curriculum could be broadened and reformed. This mainly builds on ideas produced by others. One in particular titled ‘A Different Baccalaureate Option For Soft Skills‘ explains how the new Welsh Bacc aims to address a more balanced curriculum. This would include a core suite of academic subjects, optional vocational subjects and a skills challenge certificate. A more recent blog titled ‘A National Baccalaureate‘ is also based on curriculum reform. The ‘Nat Bacc’ is currently being developed by a group of influential Headteachers in England who seem to be heading in a similar direction to the Welsh Bacc.

To reiterate; in my opinion education is about producing young people who are ready to have full and enriched lives in the modern world. If we are not creating THIS type of education curriculum then what is the point of THIS Education that we are providing?