Diary of an NQT: Marking revisited


Devising an effective marking strategy, both for your pupils’ progress and your own work/life balance, is crucial. Our NQT diarist updates us on her progress

I felt it was about time to revisit, with you, my marking strategy. I began the year very keen and eager to maintain a strict marking strategy in order to exceed the school’s marking policy (therefore leaving me with some flexibility during busy weeks). I also wanted to build my rapport and dialogue with pupils via my marking.

I have found my strict marking routine to be effective and it has allowed me to postpone my everyday marking when I have had things like mock-marking or report-writing to complete. It has also most definitely built rapport with pupils by giving them a demonstration of my care and interest in their work.

I think most powerfully, the investment in time and energy to review and evaluate pupils’ learning has opened my eyes to the deeper learning that they are gaining. Often some of the group or discussion tasks in my subject are very personal, considering how and when we should help others seeking asylum, for example. Or what do we believe happens when we die. Or what makes a perfect family.

I have often assumed that some pupils are too naïve or immature to address these questions. However, for some, it is a preference not to openly and actively share their beliefs, but to record their heartfelt ideas in their books instead. Which for me, as a teacher trying to evoke these feelings, is wonderful to see.

I find book-marking a very useful way to identify and highlight to pupils where they have missed opportunities or not met my expectations. I do this simply by annotating and posing questions, which can reduce any conflict as these questions and comments can be empowering rather than seen as a criticism.

One aspect that I need to improve upon is my time-management for marking, as up until recently I have been marking almost exclusively at home. 

I was discussing this with an NQT from another local school who said that she had been advised by a senior leader to “never take children home” – meaning their work obviously.

It may seem an obvious rule, but focusing on this has been really useful in my bid to clear my ever-revolving pile of books in the lounge.

Instead, my NQT colleague suggested I take a handful of exercise books and mark them throughout each day. Surprisingly, since Easter, I have been able to mark a full set of books within a few days by adopting this technique and being more creative with my time at school.

Another aspect I need to improve upon is self-assessment. In particular, using DIRT (Directed Individual Response Time), as I need to improve on seizing opportunities within lesson time. 

I have a set of green pens that I usually distribute to pupils to use in order to reflect on their work (and my comments on their work). However, I still don’t feel like I do this often enough.

Having said this, with the quantity of book marking I do and the feedback I have had from department leads, which has always been positive about how thorough my marking is, perhaps I should worry about this less?

As a rule, I endeavour to pose questions in order to enable constructive dialogue and to support my own teacher-pupil relationships, as well as to generate valuable evidence for my assessment and planning.

Being able to show praise in an exercise book is powerful and meaningful to the majority of pupils and stretching pupils through questioning has been beneficial in seeing how pupils may add evidence to work or may even challenge their own ideas at a later date. 

I work hard to praise and reward through our stamp, merit and postcard system and I respond to class work and home learning in the same way. It is a pleasure to be able to surprise a pupil with these positive rewards, often when they do not expect them.

  • SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.


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