Reducing workload: cut back on marking time without compromising students’ academic success

by Bonnie Burridge

Teacher workload has never been higher on the agenda for schools and academies, as well as more recently for Ofsted. From the start of this academic year, Ofsted inspectors have been routinely asking headteachers how they intend to reduce their teachers’ workload. At the same time, the next round of new GCSEs will challenge every department to deliver more difficult content while monitoring and addressing student weaknesses in ever increasing detail. 

The question now facing school leaders is: how do we ensure demands on teaching staff are manageable, without compromising students’ academic success?

Last August, Ofsted’s Sean Harford posted this tweet:

From the many responses, one theme was clear: marking. Teachers are spending a huge amount of time marking written work and are questioning whether it is time well-spent.

And it’s not just teachers doing the questioning, but the government too. The DfE workload report states:

“Marking has evolved into an unhelpful burden for teachers, when the time it takes is not repaid in positive impact on pupils’ progress.”

“ – we are concerned that it has become common practice for teachers to provide extensive written comments on every piece of work when there is very little evidence that this improves pupil outcomes in the long term.”

Reducing teacher workload: Marking Policy Review Group report

Schools are beginning to listen to these messages, with many giving their marking policies an overhaul. With a move away from the more traditional workload-heavy marking, some alternative techniques are coming to the fore:

1. 'Live marking’ – a teacher works with a student as they complete a task, explaining how to improve in real-time. Live marking is, in its essence, a dialogue between student and teacher, and it provides instant feedback. Teachers highlight where students need to improve, without correcting the work themselves, placing the onus on the student.

2. ‘Impact marking’ –a teacher uses questioning within the classroom to assess whether children have understood the lesson content. Students receive instant feedback, and teachers are able to identify gaps in knowledge. Furthermore, students learn from each other, rather than only receiving feedback on their own work or ideas.

3. ‘Class marking' – a teacher reviews students’ work, but rather than writing individual comments, identifies common themes across the class, and delivers this feedback en masse during the next lesson. Teachers can identify common spelling errors, misconceptions, key successes and next steps and students can then re-draft their work independently.

These techniques provide students with timely, frequent and actionable feedback, whilst lessening the marking workload placed upon teachers. Through the introduction of alternatives such as these, we can ensure demands on teaching staff are manageable, without compromising students’ academic success.

Is the reduction of teacher workload high on your agenda?

Book a free in-school visit with one of our experienced Education Advisers to discuss your schools needs and the most effective strategies we have found for reducing teacher workload, without compromising the quality of teaching and learning.

As a Doddle Education Adviser I support schools to utilise Doddle in a way that improves teaching and learning practices, and maximises pupil progress. Being a qualified maths teacher, it’s great to work with so many like-minded individuals, who are all driven to improve outcomes for their students.

– Bonnie Burridge


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