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Case study: Replacing written feedback in schools

Project outline

Fifteen classes in years 1 to 5, across 4 primary schools, in the Southwark TSA participated in this project.

In each school there was at least one class using the new technique (intervention class) and one using their existing practice (control class).

The trial spanned 4 months and started with a staff training day which explained the process and what they needed to do.

After this, teachers in the intervention group spent 6 weeks developing classroom cultures and teaching pupils self-assessment and peer assessment skills.

During the project, the following measures were taken:

No written marking in pupils’ books in English and maths. This was in contrast to most books being marked daily either during or after the lesson, including pupils being given ‘next steps’ to complete.

An intentional shift in focus from assessment to planning. Instead of written marking, teachers read pupils’ work and put books into 3 piles:

  • re-teach
  • consolidate
  • extend

As most work in maths would have been peer assessed, this was a relatively small task.

For writing tasks, the teacher would read the work and record what pupils needed to do next. This might inform class feedback and planning, or pupils might be put into groups depending on their needs.

Teachers had discussions with groups identified by the analysis of the previous day’s learning outcomes. The expectation was for teachers to see each pupil at least once a week. Teachers also developed pupils’ abilities to peer and self-assess.

The process was supported through efficient record-keeping of what each pupil needed to do next.


The outcomes were that:

  • all teachers in the intervention group made significant changes to their practice over the term, reducing written methods to zero and providing verbal feedback on all or most pieces of work. They considered this form of marking practice to be time effective

  • across the term, the intervention had no measurable positive or negative impact on pupils’ progress in writing or maths when compared to the control group data

  • during the project, the average time spent marking by teachers in the intervention group reduced by 3.45 hours. The average time spent marking by teachers in the control group reduced by 1.8 hours

  • some teachers in the control group felt they made a ‘partial’ change to their practice. Half reported increased levels of verbal feedback throughout the study, which suggests the difference could have been larger

  • the schools held meetings for parents to explain the new approach. As a result, no comments were received from parents on the lack of written feedback from teachers in the pupils’ books

More information

For further details, please contact: Jemima Rhys-Evans, deputy head (academic), at [email protected]

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