Inspectors will have no set expectation of any particular style of marking but they will be on the lookout for the impact of marking in helping pupils to learn and progress.
It will be one of the elements that contributes to inspectors' picture of teaching and learning. It will also form part of their judgment on care, guidance and support, which covers not just the welfare side of provision but also the effectiveness of the academic guidance to pupils and how this contributes to their progress and achievement.
Marking needs to be appropriate for the school and the children in it. For example, if standards of literacy are low, inspectors may want to look at marking in subjects other than English to see the extent to which this reinforces or undermines what it being taught in literacy.
Marking should be accurate and regular. It is unlikely to be contributing much to pupils' progress if it is erratic or if it ticks as correct work that is wrong. Though marking may be used to encourage pupils' efforts, indiscriminate praise is unlikely to be helpful. Even young pupils quickly sense the devaluation of the currency where every piece of work merits a "well done".
If marking is of high quality, it is likely it will give pupils clear indications of what they need to do better. Inspectors may expect evidence from pupils' subsequent work that they have taken on board some of the messages they have had through marking. Where, for example, teachers pose questions to pupils in their marking, inspectors might look to see whether these are rhetorical or whether the pupil has answered them.
Marking may be judged inconsistent if the quality varies significantly between classes or subjects.
If the school has a marking policy and this is not being followed by staff, this may convey to inspectors a less than positive picture of the effectiveness of leadership and management.
Selwyn Ward has been an inspector for 15 years, working in primary and secondary schools. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.