Research School Network: No Requirement for Written Marking Jade Pearce explains how Walton High School have used the EEF’s School’s Guide to Implementation.

No Requirement for Written Marking

Jade Pearce explains how Walton High School have used the EEF’s School’s Guide to Implementation.

by Staffordshire Research School
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The EEF’s Guidance Report, Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation’ aims to provide guidance on how schools can implement new initiatives and changes successfully, based on the best bets’ of research and evidence. This is crucial as the authors state, new ideas are often introduced with too little consideration for how the changes will be managed and what steps are needed to maximise the chances of success… As a result, projects initiated with the best of intentions can fade away as schools struggle to manage these competing priorities (p3).” At Walton High School near Stafford, our Leadership Group have successfully used this guidance when introducing no requirement for written marking’ at our school. This blog briefly summarises the main elements of the guidance and outlines how we put this into action.

The Guidance Report outlines 6 Foundations for Good Implementation (p7), within which there are 4 stages of implementation – Explore, Prepare, Deliver, Sustain – shown in the graphic below.

Implementation Process 2020 10 27 135957

Stage 1 – Explore
According to the guidance, in this phase, a school clearly defines the problem it wants to solve, identifies potential solutions in the form of educational programmes and practices, and judges the feasibility of implementing different options.” Firstly, schools must use multiple sources of data and evidence need to be used to define the problem they want to solve and ensure they are focusing on the right challenge or issue. At Walton High School, evidence-informed decision-making forms the foundation of our approach to leadership. The EEF’s A Marked Improvement?’ report identifies the lack of evidence on the effectiveness of written marking. This highlighted the need to address our approach to feedback which at the time required regular and often extensive written marking of pupils’ work. This evidence was triangulated with the DfE’s Teacher Workload Review Group paper which highlighted the need to reduce excessive workload associated with marking, and numerous in-school activities such as discussions with teachers and pupils, and work scrutinies which again demonstrated the ineffectiveness of written marking.

Secondly, the EEF implementation guidance recommends using as many sources of evidence as possible to ascertain feasible strategies that could be used to address the priority. This should include critically engaging with multiple studies from a range of sources. Here, we consulted numerous studies, research papers, books and blogs on the impact of alternatives to written marking. This included marking codes, live feedback, modelling, peer and self-assessment and whole-class verbal feedback – maintaining a focus and critical eye on the robustness of their evidence bases throughout. Once a list of possible solutions has been drawn up, Stage 1 continues by advising that we should then examine the feasibility and fit of these interventions in our school context, for example by judging how well it aligns with the school’s values. Our school prioritises the wellbeing of staff and triumphs evidence-informed approaches. Therefore, it was believed that these new approaches could be implemented in our school.

'Vision without implementation is hallucination’

Thomas Edison

Stage 2 – Prepare
Having decided on the practices you are going to use to address your priority, in the Prepare stage the school then needs to create an implementation plan, judge the readiness of the school to deliver that plan, then prepare staff and resources”. The first element of this is the implementation plan which according to the guidance should include: 

  • A set of well-specified active ingredients’ – these are the essential practices that will be implemented to address the priority. For us, active ingredients included replacing written marking with alternatives including giving further direct instruction on written tasks, a range of modelling techniques, the use of visualisers to give live feedback, and whole-class verbal feedback.
  • The implementation strategies describe the actions needed to implement the active ingredients. Examples of our implementation strategies included: a T&L Group to investigate and trial alternative approaches, carrying out a small-scale pilot and distributing a staff guide on the alternatives. 
  • A series of short, medium, and long-term implementation outcome measures (for example, this may include fidelity – the degree to which staff use an intervention as intended, acceptability – the degree to which different stakeholders perceive an intervention as agreeable, and reach – how many students it is serving). 

The most crucial element in this stage is then the communication of the plan to staff and providing the support needed for staff to use the active ingredients. This includes: 

  1. Communicating the purpose and importance of the innovation to staff
  2. Ensuring staff have a clear understanding of the solution. 
  3. Securing the support of teachers, parents, pupils and governors. 
  4. Identifying champions’ that can model the approaches and support others to use them.
  5. Up front training staff on the theory behind the new approach and how to implement the active ingredients.

Our actions at Walton High School included: 

  • A whole-school CPD session where I explained the benefits of reducing written marking and described and modelled how each of the techniques could be used. 
  • A staff guide toNo Written Marking’ (a copy of which can be downloaded from at the end of this blog) communicating expectations and methods as well as the evidence-base to provide a firm foundation for the justification for a shift in practices. I followed this up with a step-by-step modelling guide so that staff could see how these methods could be used in-action’.
  • Communicating with parents the reasons for our changes and clearly explaining how we would ensure that pupils still received feedback. We worked with them to alley any concerns. We also discussed our plans with governors.
  • Ensuring reach within school – Members of the T&L Group acted as experts in their own departments, helping colleagues to adopt the techniques and advising on how to overcome any problems.
  • Allowing for flexibility – Departments were given time to discuss, decide and plan how these alternatives could best be implemented in their subject and lessons. This was in no way prescribed with different departments taking different approaches. This helped to give ownership to teachers and gained initial buy-in.
Implementation checklist

Stage 3 – Deliver
In this stage the new practices are applied for the first time. Important actions here include: providing coaching to staff who are struggling with, or want feedback on the implementation of the approaches, providing time for subject-specific reflections and evaluations, observations with constructive feedback, allowing for peer-to-peer collaboration and sharing best practice.

At Walton we gave INSET time for departments to share examples of their use of the new feedback techniques. For example, teachers shared whole-class verbal feedback sheets and presentation slides that they had used to give feedback to classes. The Leadership Group highlighted good practice in giving feedback when carrying out learning walks and I shared these examples across the school. I also worked with departments or members of staff to give further support and guidance where this required. For instance, by helping a department to design a whole-class feedback sheet that they felt was adapted to their subject. Members of each department also worked together to co-construct model writing. Finally, multiple members of staff observed myself and other Champions’ using these techniques with pupils in lessons.

Sustain statement

Stage 4 – Sustain
In this stage schools should plan for sustaining and scaling an intervention”. This ensures that the new practises become embedded and are maintained in the long-term. At Walton, we have added our approach to feedback into our induction of new staff. We will continue to focus on feedback in our learning conversations with teachers throughout the year and will share best practice across the school regularly. We have also allocated future INSET and departmental time to revisiting and refining our feedback techniques both as a whole school and as individual departments.

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Jade Pearce is one of the Staffordshire Research Schools’ newly appointed Evidence Leads in Education (ELE). She leads on Teaching & Learning as an Assistant Headteacher at Walton High School near Stafford and you can follow her and her work at @PearceMrs.

If you would like the explore the options for working with Jade or one of our ELEs on putting evidence to work in your context, you can find out more about their areas of expertise here and contact us here.


Sharples, J; Albers, B; Fraser, S; (2019) Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation. (Guidance Reports). EEF (Education Endowment Foundation): London

DfE (2016) Eliminating unnecessary workload around marking, Report of the Independent Teacher Workload Review – Publications – GOV.UK. [online] Available at:

Elliott V, Baird J, Hopfenbeck TN, Ingram J, Thompson I, Usher N, Zantout M, Richardson J and Coleman R (2016) A Marked Improvement? A Review of the Evidence on Written Marking. Oxford: Education Endowment Foundation.

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