Fear of pushy parents means teachers spend hours pointlessly 'triple marking' work, education union warns

Camilla Turner
A fear of demanding parents has led to teachers spending hours pointlessly “triple marking” children’s work - Matthew Woodward / Alamy

They are often seen on the sidelines of sports matches, jogging alongside their children and shouting at them to score. Or perhaps, bombarding teachers with emails late at night, asking for updates about their son or daughter’s progress.

Now, pushy parents have found themselves at the forefront of a new battleground: homework marking.

A fear of demanding parents has led to teachers spending hours pointlessly “triple marking” children’s work, an education union’s annual conference heard.

Delegates at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) were told how teachers are spending an excessive amount of time on detailed marking to appease parents, despite little evidence that it helps children learn.

Teachers are spending an excessive amount of time on detailed marking to appease parents, NASUWT conference told Credit: Victoria Jones

Andy Grady, a teacher from Burton-on-Trent, told the conference: “I think some teachers mark heavily because of parent-ophobia, they've got the fear of parents that they will see that the book is not marked excessively.

“I think the message we need to get over to parents, the public, is that marking is not all that it's cracked up to be”.

Addressing the conference during a motion to address teachers’ workload, he said that marking was “probably the biggest percentage of our workload”, despite research being “pretty sketchy” about its effectiveness.

“Slow, ineffective marking is worthless. The phrase 'catching up on my marking' should be banned,” he added, reported Times Education Supplement. 

 “I've got a colleague who gets excellent results, really excellent results, but he barely touches his books. I'm his head of department. I leave him alone."

He went on to issue a plea to parents: “If your child is not succeeding, by all means question the quality of teaching - and I love taking those phone calls.

“And question whether your child is being taught how to be an independent learner, because they need to be taught how to be independent before you moan about the books being marked.”

Other delegates complained about demands for “deep marking” which is also known as “triple marking”.

Education Secretary Justine Greening Credit: GLYN KIRK

The Department for Education (Dfe) say that the term deep marking is used to describe a process whereby teachers provide written feedback to pupils offering guidance with a view to improving, and pupils are then expected to respond in writing to the guidance, which in turn is verified by the teacher.

A policy review group was set up by the DfE on teacher workload in 2015, which had a particular focus on the merits of “deep marking”. It said this had been a growing trend in recent years, which it blamed on “false assumptions about what was required by Government”.

Last year, a DfE commissioned report on marking said there was “little robust evidence” to support the use of extensive written comments when marking pupils’ work, and Ofsted has told its inspectors not to look for detailed marking.

The Department for Education say that teachers should not be expected to use deep or triple marking Credit: Teri Pengilley

Delegates at the NASUWT conference in Manchester voted in favour of a possible national strike over the issue of teachers’ workload.

The motion called for the dispute to be escalated, citing concerns about the “unsustainability of workload and the dismissive attitude shown by governments and administrations towards teachers’ statutory entitlement to a work-life balance”.

It instructed the union's national executive to consult members nationally about holding national days of strike action, as well as continuous rolling, regional strike action, and time-limited workplace-based actions.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Teachers who are worn out and run down by the excessive demands being placed upon them will not be able to give their best to their students”.

A DfE spokesperson has previously said that teachers should not be expected to use deep or triple marking and that “teachers should be trusted to focus on what is best for their pupils and circumstances”.

The spokesman added: “Teaching remains an attractive profession with more people joining the profession than leaving or retiring. Where staff are struggling we trust headteachers to take action to tackle the causes of stress and ensure they have the support they need.”

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