top of page

"What could we do with an extra 20,000 hours a year?" Strategies to reduce marking load wh

Following on from our last Teaching + Learning meeting in March, discussing 'What is Effective Feedback', we wanted to delve into the debate further.

Using a helpful blog from Joe Kirby ( we began by looking at how many hours we spend marking at Putney and questioning what we could do with the extra 20,000 hours - the average amount calculated over a year - in our teaching practice.

Joe Kirby sites Michaela School in Wembley Park as a model, suggesting that one route is to stop marking all together! Feedback can still be effective, without the lengthy comments written by teachers. Even if you are firm believer in written feedback, can we guarantee that it is consistent? Are you always writing it in the right mainframe? Are you more tired towards the end of a group of books and are therefore less detailed? Are you commuting while marking? If you've marked 30+ can the last 10 read your writing as your hand aches through the final books?

So why not stop is all together...!

Instead of marking a set of books, why not try this method.

  1. Read set of books x1-2 times per week (60 books = approx. 30 mins)

  2. Make whole-class notes on the following:

  • Common spelling mistakes

  • WWW/EBI (what not to do) – general points & skills being used

  • Exemplar answers

  • List of names to reward/flag up

3. Next lesson, verbally give Whole-Class feedback to class during DIRT time using the following format:

  • Accuracy: Correct spellings. Undergo test. Mark’s recorded by teacher

  • “Non-examples”: Examine examples of whatnotto do and model how to improve (using visuliser)

  • Celebrate:Good paragraphs

  • Students annotate and make changes in green pen as they go.

(Thanks to Jo Facer, former Head of English at Michaela, for this example)

This potentially radical approach is well evidenced in Michaela's school culture (video's can be found online of the feedback being given to students) but there are lots of other ideas that we could experiment with too:

Our Teaching + Learning Group went through the list and were pleased to see that we are doing the majority of these techniques already. Phew! Areas we identified where we could target in greater detail however were: #15, #16 & #17. While 1:1 feedback does take place we recognised that this isn't always conducted in a "coaching" format. What benefits could come from coaching our students, rather than telling them what their WWW/EBI is for a piece of work. Furthermore, can we take advantage of google doc's to a greater extent and get our teacher <> student, and student <> student feedback more instant by going online?

As well as this, we considered some of Alex Quigley's excellent suggestions:

And finally looked into two key documents from Tom Sherrington and Mark Enser on their whole-school feedback model's.

Tom explores ways in which we can close the gap - students need to close the gap between the work they have done originally and a higher level of work suggested by the feedback they receive. In other words, ‘closing the gap’ means ‘acting on feedback’. Many brilliant strategies are suggested below, some of which I hope you will feel able to adopt and take forward in your own practice:

If you want to find out more or read further into these ideas then the below bibliography will hopefully act as a good starting point.

Please note: None of these ideas can be attributed to us. They are all taken and adapted our school environment but we are thankful for their suggestions.

bottom of page