29th June 2007 at 01:00
Q I'm looking to write a school marking scheme as we have been identified as being inconsistent. What exactly are Ofsted's criteria for useful written feedback in children's exercise books? A You probably won't find Ofsted "criteria" for marking. Inspectors will have no set expectation of any particular style of marking, but they will look at its impact in helping pupils to learn and progress. It will be part of the academic guidance given to pupils to help them improve and may link in some schools to individual or group targets, for example. Marking should obviously 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.

(This is not as rare as you may think.) Though marking may be used to encourage pupils, indiscriminate praise is unlikely to be helpful. If marking is of high quality, it is likely that it will be giving pupils a clear indication of what they need to do better. It may be judged inconsistent if the quality varies significantly between classes or subjects. As with all things, marking needs to be appropriate for the school and the children in it. For example, if standards of literacy are low in a school, inspectors might want to look at marking in subjects other than English to see the extent to which this reinforces or undermines what is being taught in literacy. If work in other subjects routinely allows basic literacy errors without comment, then that may be sending a dangerous message to pupils that literacy is only something we do in English.

Q Are there lists of criteria for outstanding, good, satisfactory and unsatisfactory for subject leaders? If someone in your department has had an unsatisfactory lesson observation, does that mean the subject leader cannot get a "good" for leadership, even though there may be an action plan in place to address issues?A Inspectors make overall judgments about leadership and management, and the grade descriptions are available from the Ofsted website. There is no list of criteria for grading subject leaders, because subjects are not individually inspected. Indeed, reports should not comment on any individuals in the school unless they are identified on the front page (which basically means the headteacher). That means you may see comments on "the leadership team" and while you may see judgments about subject leaders as a group, reports should not include judgments on a particular subject leader

Selwyn Ward draws on years of inspection experience. The views expressed here are his own. To ask him a question, contact him at regularly answers your Ofsted questions on our forums at

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