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‘No marking, no planning’ – could this be the best teaching job ever?

One highly-rated school has won praise from teachers by making a concerted effort to reduce ‘pointless’ workload – including a ban on graded observations

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One highly-rated school has won praise from teachers by making a concerted effort to reduce ‘pointless’ workload – including a ban on graded observations

It is an advert that would make any teacher think they were dreaming – a job that involves no lesson planning, no graded observations of their lessons and no marking.

A job where the successful candidate is expected simply to teach – and the headteacher has vowed to get rid of “pointless” workload.

“You have to have a unique selling point about your school and why it is a good place to work,” Clare Sealy, head of St Matthias CE primary, East London, who created the advert, says.

“I wanted to say, ‘We’re a school that looks after you, that cares about you. We’re not going to ask you to do things that are pointless.’”

For Sealy, the unique selling points of St Matthias, a 200-pupil school, include “sensible and successful” teaching practices, as well as a commitment to reduce workload.

So when, last month, she decided to advertise for a teacher, she did it by sending a short tweet, saying simply: “No marking, no grading, no planning...” with a link to her blog, where the advert and approach were detailed.

But if the school has ditched marking, grading and planning, how does it monitor staff and pupils?

'They can just get on with it'

No planning is perhaps the simplest shift to manage – teachers do plan lessons at St Matthias, but there is no requirement for those plans to be submitted to the senior leadership team.

“If a newly qualified teacher wants to go through their plans with their mentor then they would, but why would I look at everyone’s planning?” Sealy asks.

“They can just get on with it and I can see the results of their planning when I look at pupils’ books or observe lessons.”

And those lesson observations are not high-stakes termly events, but a ten-minute visit most weeks, and are not graded.

But the decision to ditch marking, made last July, was a much tougher decision. After all, St Matthias had been praised for its thorough marking by Ofsted.

And Ms Sealy admits that she was “really nervous about getting rid of marking”.

The school had been an early adopter of “triple marking”, which means that after marking a piece of work, teachers would also write a question for the pupil to answer and then mark that answer too. But last summer, initially in response to workload concerns, Sealy banned her teachers from doing any marking at all.

Sharing the driving

Harminder Dhanjal, a Year 4 teacher at St Matthias, is a fan of the new method: “I just look through the books and get an overview of the main issues,” he says.

“The following day, the children spend time and effort finding their own mistakes and putting them right. Before, the teacher was doing the driving and the children were passengers.”

So has Sealy’s approach proved attractive? More than 1,000 people read her blog and four people came to look around the school. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to overcome the capital’s teacher recruitment problems.

Two people put in an application and both were lined up for interview, but withdrew after being offered permanent posts elsewhere.

“The advert was a long shot because it is for maternity cover,” says Sealy. “The post is still open.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 16 June edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full article hereThis week's TES magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here.

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