Primary teachers should spend less time marking maths, schools told

Primary teachers should spend less time marking maths, schools told

Maths teachers should focus less on marking and more on lesson planning, the organisation that represents the subject at a national level has said.

The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics has issued new guidance to schools suggesting that the “widespread practice of teachers giving individual and unique written tips and targets to every child in a class after every piece of work is a bad use of time”.

The centre has said it is releasing the guidance to address a “perception” among primary school headteachers that Ofsted inspectors are looking for evidence of “regular, detailed and personalised marking” in pupils books, and in doing so has become the latest organisation to attempt to bust the “myths” of Ofsted inspections.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference in Liverpool last week that he was working with the inspectorate to address a misconception among teachers about what it could and couldn’t demand of them.

And the watchdog itself has recently been promoting its ‘myth buster’ guidance on Twitter, with its own documents saying that inspectors do not “expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback”, adding that these elements are “for the school to decide through its assessment policy”.

The centre’s new guidance suggests a less time-consuming way of marking a class set of books, by drawing a distinction between “errors that reflect a misunderstanding, and mistake that are simple ‘slips’”.

It recommends that slips are highlighted briefly, particularly when there is an expectation that the pupil makes the correction themselves, and that errors of understanding are addressed either by individual or small-group explanation or, where a misconception is evident in a large number of books, by a whole class discussion.

“The most important part of a teacher’s job is the teaching itself, supported by the designing and preparing of lessons,” said the centre’s primary director Debbie Morgan. “So other activities, such as marking books or collecting evidence, should not be too onerous or time-consuming.”

The guidance goes on to say that teachers should not be routinely expected to write next-steps or targets into books, but that subsequent lessons should be designed “to take account of next steps”.

Addressing fears over the scale of marking faced by some teachers is part of a wider effort to reduce workload in the profession. The issue was one of three, along with data collection and planning, that were recently reported on by government-commissioned groups.

The group’s final report told the government that marking should be meaningful, manageable and motivating, without always needing “in-depth comments”.