Reducing teacher workload around marking

In October 2014, the DfE launched the teacher workload challenge. This was a month-long survey asking teachers for their views on how to reduce unnecessary workload.

Analysis of the survey identified marking as one of the three most burdensome tasks impacting on teacher workload. As a result, the DfE set up the Marking Policy Review Group to look at marking practices in schools that are raising standards successfully while reducing marking workload. The Group’s report was published in March 2016.

In early October 2016 a group of schools in Wigan, the With Others We Succeed Consortium (WOWS), held a session to discuss and evaluate the outcomes of the Marking Policy Review Group Report. It was clear from the outset that the findings of the report reflected the collective experiences of the Consortium and they welcomed the recommendations.

Following discussions about the potential impact of new approaches to marking and feedback noted in the Marking Policy Review Group Report, the Consortium put together a self-funded reflective research project to evaluate their current approaches to marking and consider a range of alternative approaches across member schools. The intended aim was to develop and evaluate alternative ways of working that could be disseminated across all schools in the Consortium and beyond. The project was also viewed as an opportunity to implement a programme of reflective research that is seen as an essential element of an evidence based profession. This type of response reflects the aims and purpose of the Consortium as a community of practice.

From initial discussions prior to the launch there was a palpable enthusiasm and determination to make things better for staff and pupils. Maybe, for the first time, leaders took the opportunity to reflect on the issue of what is effective marking and what will have the greatest impact on teaching, learning and reduced workload, regardless of external pressures and the requirements of key stakeholders.

The project was supported by 15 WOWS Consortium schools and did not incur any financial costs beyond what could be described as normal school based internal evaluation and professional development. The project was supported by Graham Herbert, (former Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA).); Tim Oates, (Director of Research at Cambridge Assessment and Chair, Expert Panel National Curriculum Review); and Mick Walker (former Executive Director of QCDA, member of the DfE Teacher Workload Marking Group and Vice-Chair of the CIEA), who gave their time and expertise for free.

The Project Leader was Tim Sherriff, Headteacher of Westfield Community School in Wigan and co-opted member of the NAHT Primary Council and a member of the NAHT Assessment and Accountability Group. From October 2018, Tim will be joining the CIEA as a new Trustee.

The DfE published the WOWS report in March 2018 alongside the reports of a group of funded projects addressing key issues around teacher workload. A launch event was held at the DfE earlier this year and was attended by Tim and two of his WOWS colleagues, Joanne Farrimond, and Phil Edge (see picture above right).

The report demonstrates how schools can work in collaboration to design, implement and evaluate a range of approaches to teaching, learning and managing workload. One of the key features of the project is that the schools tried a range of different approaches to marking, but all based on the same set of principles. Further, a key outcome was that in thinking about the purpose and approaches to marking, other aspects such as planning and broader pedagogical considerations were brought in to focus. Besides an overall report, each school produced a case study and a poster to illustrate their individual approach and their outcomes.

More recently, the work of the WOWS Consortium featured in the DfE Workload reduction toolkit, which was published on 21 July 2018.

Read the WOWS Report on the DfE website

Link to the DfE toolkit.