Sunday, March 23, 2014

Marking in primary schools is verging on the ridiculous

Marking in primary schools used to be done with a red pen or whatever colour happened to be closest at hand. I've even marked in pencil once, but most of that marking was rubbed out by the children. What's happened now however has been steadily creeping in over the last few years - red pen is seen as bad, a terrible colour to mark with. Children view it as negative even if their work is correct. Red is now a banned marking colour in many primary schools across the land and has been replaced with a plethora of colour coded marking schemes, all followed to the colour due to the ridiculous nature of some primary school marking policies.

Before we begin, let me please stress that the above graphic is purely fictional. However, it has been based on fact. The first two layers of the Rainbow Marking Scheme (RMS) are used by many primary schools and is engrained into their marking policies - a quick Google search and the first 6 pages of Primary School policies contain 'Green for Growth' and/or 'Tickled Pink'.  The vilification of red pen for marking was even explored by the sociologists Richard Dukes and Heather Albanesi in their paper 'Seeing Red : Quality of an essay, colour of the grading pen, and student reactions to the grading process'

The red grading pen can upset students and weaken teacher–student relations and perhaps learning. Dukes and Albanesi

This has led to a minefield in marking. Marking policies now reach up to 6 pages in length (this one hits 8) and contain the use of different colours to reflect 'effective feedback', some schools use a set of symbols that even the code breakers of Bletchley Park would find challenging to break. Here's an example for marking Literacy.

Some would argue that Ofsted has created the monster that is the marking policy and it's become a necessary evil. This is of course nonsense. Common sense has gone out the window and marking has become nothing more than coded symbology with multi-coloured written comments to satisfy your SLT that you are adhering to their Marking Policy. 

Here's a thought - what about the colour blind child? 

I'm also thinking about - when you mark ask yourself, are you marking for the child so that the feedback you give will help them improve or are you marking to satisfy a ridiculous marking policy?