Dear Staff,

Thank you for allowing me to look at your books this week. It was lovely to see a range of work in maths and literacy. I didn’t ask for topic books because these subjects are not as important even though I know you work just as hard to make these books look fantastic.

I asked for three books of differing abilities. This gave you plenty of time to ensure these particular books looked as good as possible – by adding in extra bits of marking that you didn’t do at the time. Perhaps what I should do in future, is to collect a random sample of books. This would give me a better picture of who marks consistently for all pupils – rather than teachers just playing the silly book scrutiny game.

Overall, I was fairly disappointed with the standard of marking in the books I looked at. I was alarmed to see some books that had learning objectives written by the children themselves!

Although writing the objective them self probably helps them to remember the learning objective and gives them an opportunity to use a ruler (which we all know children still struggle to use), I must insist you waste your time by typing up the learning objective for them.

I realise this must take you a long time every day because you have to produce them for literacy and maths (and sometimes for several ability groups in each lesson), but it is something you must do. I appreciate this is a job you usually do at home, print them off using your own printer ink, photocopy them in the morning before trimming and sticking them in their books, but please do them; they look good.

I overheard a member of staff say you would rather spend more time planning your lessons and preparing resources. I have to disagree. I feel that typing up a learning slip is a good use of your time.

In addition, I was staggered to see a ‘success criteria’ list with only four bullet points on. Please make sure your ‘success criteria’ list has at least eight bullet points on. I know the children will find this overwhelming and means your learning slip will have more words on it than the child’s actual work but it looks good.

I realise that the children very rarely achieve all eight bullet points but it proves that your subject knowledge is excellent.

I was hugely disappointed that teachers were not using the marking code fully when marking their books. As you know, we agreed to use my thirty-seven codes and symbols list to mark the books.

In one class, the only marking I saw were good words and sentences ticked, and corrections or editing opportunities circled. This simply won’t do. One Year Two teacher had double ticked the following sentence even though the piece of work was about adverbs! ‘Beneath the mysterious oak tree, slept a weeping wizard clutching his broken wand with his wise hands.’

I appreciate this sentence was excellent for a Year Two child and a double tick written on the sentence and a sticker would have made a real difference to that pupil, but it had nothing to do with the learning of the lesson – adverbs. Please do not use your professional judgement in this manner; only comment on the learning for that lesson.

In fact, the child had clearly demonstrated a good use of adverbs in the same piece of work but the teacher just wrote  ‘Well done; good use of adverbs.’ The teacher hadn’t written a next step or written something for the child to improve on. You always have to say what they should improve. You must prove you know how to improve their work.

I realise you are fully aware of what each child needs to do the next day and that you adjust your planning accordingly, but you must always tell the child what to improve. Simply writing ‘Excellent work today, you must be very proud. You had a positive mind-set. Well done.’ will not be tolerated. In many ways, you don’t have time to write such motivational comments, as this doesn’t prove you are aware of how to extend their learning.

Staff must also use green and pink highlighters to show what is good and what can be improved. Simply ticking or commenting on a child’s work will not suffice. I realise this makes marking laborious and takes away how you want to mark but please don’t use your professional judgment to mark a child’s piece of work.

I appreciate what you want to write is very different to what I expect you to write. It’s all about making the books look good. This must be very frustrating for you; especially as you are accountable for their progress. You probably didn’t realise this when you first thought about becoming a teacher.  You probably thought you could cleverly target children with personal feedback, individual marking styles and reward systems to motivate a wide range of personalities in your class. Sorry about that.

In order to prove the child has made progress under my marking guidance, please ask the children to respond to your comments in a different coloured pen. It makes no difference to the child’s progress but it looks good for Ofsted apparently. I will be looking for evidence of children responding to your marking in more depth next time. If you could then respond to their responses before they respond again in a different colour pen that would be great.

Can I also add that you should be ‘deep marking’ at least

2017-19 Full blogs are now archived in the book ‘How Do You Think the Lesson Went?’