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Comments are better than marks, says GTC

Teachers should put comments, not marks, on pupils' work and not fear it will land them into trouble with Ofsted, according to the General Teaching Council for England.

The GTC has combined academic studies with research carried out by teachers in their classrooms to create guidance for new teachers on learning behaviour.

It says the evidence supports using comment-only marking and not awarding grades at all.

"Some teachers were nervous about this, fearing that pupils, parents or Ofsted inspectors might react unfavourably," it said.

"But negative reactions to comment-only marking were very rare. The comments seemed to help parents, as well as pupils, focus on the learning issues, rather than on trying to interpret a grade or mark."

An Ofsted spokesman said inspectors did not have a "prescribed view" of how teachers should mark work, but they expected clarity.

"In helping to form their judgments on the effectiveness of assessment, inspectors look for evidence that pupils understand the standard at which they were performing, know how to improve their work and are aware of their progress," the spokesman said.

Because it is based on teacher- led research as well as academic studies, the GTC guidance offers an insight into the experiences of young teachers using different methods. For example, the academics were able to analyse the psychological implications of using rewards and sanctions in learning.

Teachers were able to point out that young children were happy to receive merits or reward stickers in class or during assembly, unlike more bashful secondary pupils.

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