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Work Scrutiny?

Last Saturday at the “celebration of maths” event, one of the things Mel Lee (@melmaths) spoke about was work scrutinies. She asked the room what actually gets scrutinised, is it the work done by the students? Or is it a process of looking solely at whether a teacher has stuck to policies? What do you think it should be?

A recent conversation with a former colleague revealed that at their school they no longer use the term “Work Scrutiny”, but have replaced it with the more accurate “Marking scrutiny”, and from conversations with others I feel that this term would be more accurate in the majority of schools. It made me think about what we should be trying to achieve through work scrutinies.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that a work scrutiny should happen and no quarter paid to the marking at all, but I do feel that the process should be aimed at ensuring the work is enabling the learners to progress. The work being set and completed should be scrutinised, and the feedback should be constructive and aimed to help the teacher improve the learning process.

This is where Mark Miller’s (@GoldfishBowlMM) “Marking Conversations” come to prominence. Instead of random book selection, ask a teacher to bring the best book from a class, the worst book and one in the middle, and discus why they are that why. Look at the work, is it appropriately pitched? Look at the feedback given, is it helpful? Is it on point? Does it aid learning? Or is it retrospective and aimed at ticking boxes?

I had a conversation with colleagues from other local schools during a maths network meeting. The topic of feedback was discussed and someone said they have staff members who are consistent spending 6 hours per class marking every two weeks. That’s a ridiculous and unworkable amount of time to spend marking, and the majority of the time spent is going to have little impact. Comments written retrospectively on work two weeks old are going to have very little impact on learning.

I feel there is a better way, books should be constantly marked. I don’t mean everyone should mark every lesson. I spoke to a HoD who does this, he said it takes him 30 minutes per class, so a full timetable teacher would need 2.5 hrs marking a day near enough, which doesn’t seem sustainable. Books should be marked in lessons. Feedback and comments are instant and can affect the direction a lesson goes. You can move learners on at their own speed, and offer extra scaffolding and examples to those who need it. You may not get round the whole class each lesson, but if you are aware who you miss then you can catch them in the next. You should be able to see a whole class in two or three lessons. When you mark the set of books then there is already comments, feedback and dialogue. Your marking can be focused on catching any misconceptions you’ve missed in lessons and picking up any repeated errors. You can point out areas that when we’ll and set individual targets to improve. I’ve also taken to marking with my phone next to me so I can snap pictures of good work and common errors to show in the next lesson. Marking should be about improving learning, not about ticking boxes that someone thinks ofsted want to see.

I’ve heard some horror stories of late, people having to mark using 3 different coloured pens (one for progress, one for effort and I can’t remember the third) and two different coloured highlighters. People having to mark with 8 stampers next to them. People being told their books are inadequate because pupils haven’t used a ruler to draw the “bus stops” when completing short division.

These ridiculous ideas aren’t even what ofsted are looking for, they want to see marking that aids learning. Their guidance to inspectors says their work scrutinies should pay attention to:


So these ridiculous policies make more work for staff and make it harder for the school to satisfy the criteria than a sensible policy that is built to “help teachers improve pupils’ learning.” Instead of trying to second guess an inspector, write a policy which will help your pupils. That’s what ofsted actually want.

  1. February 13, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. February 14, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Isn’t marking books in lesson an equally poor use of time? After all, in the lesson both parties are present – you can give feedback far more quickly and effectively by talking to the student!

    • February 14, 2015 at 9:57 am

      I do talk to the student, but use a pen to demonstrate what im saying, to model working and set extention questions etc. Circle mistakes they’ve made so they can correct them after ive explained how, etc.

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