Time to Reflect and Improve: Re-thinking Marking – Charlotte Goodchild


Currently, there is lots of work going on around school with regards to improving the critique and feedback that we offer our students – work involving everyone from classroom teachers involved in action research projects, to CTLs and the SLT.

Whilst this is most certainly a work in progress, in the meantime, have a look at some of the articles and videos listed below and perhaps think about how you could apply these ideas to your own teaching practice.

Austin’s Butterfly

Head Guru Teacher

Teacher Toolkit


David Didau

Positive Prep


Sam Naylor, outlines Wilmslow High School’s new intervention strategy, ‘Positive Prep’.

Being prepared is fundamentally important within education and throughout all areas of life. In order to learn effectively, all students must be prepared for the day ahead; have embedded learning habits; targets to work towards and the right frame of mind to reach their full potential. Parents and carers should also be made aware of how they can aid their child’s learning in the best possible way.

Positive Prep is a new support system designed to improve organisational skills and homework completion rates amongst targeted students at WHS. Students referred onto the programme complete a five week cycle of ‘Positive Prep’ where they are guided and supported to complete homework and improve their organisation. Positive Prep also encourages students to:

  • Recognise the importance of being organised and prepared for the school week
  • Manage their time effectively
  • Complete homework accurately and to the required standard
  • Have more self esteem and confidence in completing work
  • Have embedded study habits that they continue to use after the cycle has finished

Positive Prep is aimed at students who genuinely struggle to cope with the workload that a normal school week can bring.  These students may not have access to a computer at home, receive little or no support from parents, or, may be generally forgetful, have a lack of interest in a particular subject or receive Pupil Premium Funding.

Students on the Programme are required to attend breakfast and daily after school homework clubs as well as completing a Positive Prep booklet which teachers are also required to sign and check.

During the Monday breakfast club students set themselves targets to work towards throughout the week. Students also stock up on any equipment to ensure that they organised and are starting the week off in a positive frame of mind.

The Positive Prep booklet is used as a way of monitoring the students’ homework completion and organisation. Students are required to hand their PP booklet to teachers towards the end of each lesson. At the end of the lesson, the teacher will check to see if the student has written their homework down and will then either tick or cross three different boxes based on whether they had the required equipment for the lesson and whether or not they completed their homework to the required standard.

The after school homework clubs are led by members of our Learning Support Team. During this time students are given high quality 1 to 1 help and guidance with homework, revision and any class work which they may need to catch up with.

Whilst the strategy has only been up and running since September, it is hoped that Positive Prep will help to improve attainment levels as well as embedding positive study habits that students can continue to use after the cycle has finished.

The future of homework at Wilmslow High School? A follow up…

From September to December, Wilmslow High School’s history team piloted a new homework concept with their year nine classes.  This concept was adopted to allow student choice and autonomy when completing on their homework which, in turn, hopefully encouraged students to take ownership of their home studies and increase the quality of work produced.

To get some background on how this little experiment was designed to work, please read Helena Clarke’s initial post from September 2012 here.  Below is a picture of the homework sheet each student used to choose their history tasks from:

Now that the initial experiment is complete, Helena has now offered her team’s thoughts on this new homework process with one eye on its future development:

Overall the reaction from our year nines has been really positive. I was surprised that when I asked for feedback most of the class shouted out positive comments – a rare moment when linked with homework! The overwhelming message was that they really enjoyed having the choice of a variety of tasks. One student said that he preferred written tasks and found he was able to choose homework that played to his strengths. Commenting on the points system, where there was a target of points to be achieved, the students liked the challenge – many tried to beat the minimum points set. They said they felt motivated to push themselves more. They also liked the idea of being able to choose a shorter task on a week when they had a lot of other homework, so they could manage their workload more effectively.

A Slave Owner's Guide To Running A Plantation

A Slave Owner’s Guide To Running A Plantation

In terms of our thoughts: I have liked the fact that they have a homework sheet in their books so it has taken less time to set tasks. I have been able to say that they need to choose from task 2 and then just quickly explained my expectations. When homework has been poor I have awarded less than the set points. I have also been pleasantly surprised by some of the quality of homework that was produced – not only by students I would expect but also from some of the quieter middling students. Andy also commented on some exceptional work he received on tasks that he would not have been happy to set for the whole class.

A Museum Exhibition

A Museum Exhibition

It did not solve the issue of engagement with homework for a couple of persistent offenders – but I didn’t really expect it to. It did provide a challenge and a variety of tasks and it was often more interesting to mark homework. We did give ourselves too much homework to mark and would balance it out with a little more time set aside for research. We would change some tasks that we felt did not yield positive results and we must be wary of using the same sheet year after year – it needs to be altered and kept fresh.

We are planning on designing another sheet for year nine after Christmas and we would certainly broaden out the experiment across key stage 3.

Helena (and Andy)

Wilmslow’s English Department: A Homework Experiment

Following a visit from an Ofsted inspector to carry out our curriculum evaluation in 2011-2012, the need to encourage younger students to work more independently was highlighted as an area for development within the department. With lots of help from a small group of colleagues, I set about redesigning the way we set homework tasks for our year 7 students.

The task bank we created is based on the idea of ‘homeplays’. It sounds a little corny but it works on the principle that most students like to learn in different ways and that homework should be both relevant and fun. Hopefully, we can encourage our Year 7 students to be independent learners by giving them an element of choice in the homework they complete and by allowing them to organise the time they spend on each piece.

Each half term, students in Year 7 will be provided with a bank of homework tasks which are organised into the 6 PLTS areas: creative thinking, team workers, independent enquirers, self-managers, effective participators and reflective learners. Over the course of the half term, students must complete one task (of their own choice) from the options available in each of the PLTS areas. They will complete 6 tasks in total.

Due to the nature of the tasks, some will take students longer to complete than others and they may wish to work on more than one task at any given time. It is up to individual teachers to set deadlines within each half term at which they can check progress. Teachers may wish to ask students to complete all extended task homework in the back of their books, or in a separate folder: whatever works for them.

These tasks have been designed with mixed ability students in mind.  As the tasks are fairly open-ended, they should provide sufficient
challenge for more able students. We are also using our whole school Wilmslow Way points system to reward good work.  This will help inform the students’ form tutors, Head of House and parents on their progress in their English homeplays.

Having used these new task sheets for the first half term back, the English team are finding that the results are pleasing. Our Year 7 students, keen to impress, have really gone the extra mile to produce pieces of homework of which they can be proud:

We’re continuing to review these tasks as we make use of them over the course of the year. Ashton Davies, a fellow English teacher, found that “there is the issue that the keener Year 7s complete the required number of tasks in the first week or two which means they have a number of weeks with no homework but I guess that’s the point, i.e. rewarding efficient workers.”

A key point will be ensuring that the tasks provide enough challenge for our most able, at the same time as being accessible for others.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Katie Baldwin

Twitter: @KatieBaldwin99

WHS English teacher

Wilmslow High School’s history team is also experimenting with the element of choice in their homework design in key stage 3 classes.  You can find their previous post here

The future of homework design? A lesson from history…

This following post is going to be the first of many posts by Wilmslow High School’s teachers, showcasing great practice from across our teaching community.  Thanks to the WHS History department, in particular Helena Clarke and Andy Ingham, for sharing their new Year 9 homework design and their rationale behind it.  If any teachers, both within and outside of Wilmslow High School, have any thoughts, feedback or ideas on how to improve our students’ homework experience we would love you to share them through commenting below.  Over to Helena…

We are currently trialling a new style of homework design for our Year 9 history students. After being passed some action research on providing more choice for homework, Andy Ingham and I formulated the sheet below:

We felt that with a chronological framework to our current scheme of work it would be difficult to have a totally free choice of homework for a half term, so we have set tasks according to the areas being covered. We know from current practice that offering students a choice of tasks often yields pleasing results.

Our current aims are to increase engagement with homework tasks, raise the quality of  homework being submitted and encourage students to stretch and challenge themselves through independent study.

There are a couple of compulsory tasks, but most weeks there are at least three choices of homework with each allocated a number of points.  If the homework is not completed to a personally high level, no points will be awarded.  Vitally, the success criteria for each piece of homwework is shared with the students beforehand.  Students must achieve 25 points by the end of the cycle – this has been calculated so that they cannot always choose the perceived easiest task. Students who significantly exceed the points target will receive some form of reward (to be decided).

Initial reaction from our young historians has been very positive. One of my students has completed all three homeworks on triangular trade and I have been impressed by the thought the students have put into their mini museum exhibits. The interesting observation from the first couple of weeks is that only three students in my class asked for the lowest level task sheet. These students feel that they are taking the easy option, but this is a homework which some students not keen on writing too much normally find quite challenging!

So, initial thoughts are very encouraging.  There will be a follow up post after the October half term to summarise our findings.

A great big thank you to Helena Clarke for being WHS’s first guest blogger on ‘Lookout for Learning’.  Keep your eye out for more action research from across our teaching community.