Who is the feedback for? (Lessons in Feedback 6a)

#28daysofwriting Day 9

One of the questions that came up in our recent book scrutiny was this: who is the marking for?

In some recent posts, I’ve been hinting at a broken logic that exists behind many schools marking policies. This logic looks like this.

  1. We must do brilliant feedback because the Sutton Trust says it’s the most effective way of making a difference to the education of our students.
  2. Marking is the same as feedback so we must do brilliant marking.
  3. We must write a brilliant marking policy so that all teachers do the same brilliant marking.
  4. We must beat our teachers with metaphorical sticks when they fail to comply with the marking policy.

I heard the privilege of listening to one of Her Majesty Inspectors for schools recently. These are like the ninjas of Ofsted inspectors. She explained that when Ofsted visit a school, they are charged with investigating how well the teachers comply with the marking policy of the school. They do not judge the quality of the marking policy. Maybe they should.

It’s a bit like if someone has a cold trying to make them better by observing how they wipe their nose – more broken logic – it’s so many steps away from the thing that actually matters: the quality of the feedback.

Performance Related Pay

Like many teachers in the UK, I’m starting back this week under new legislation. One of the more significant ones is performance-related pay.

This year, UK state schools have to adopt a new policy that will set out how performance related pay will work. Up until September 2013 we have been working under a regime where teachers move up a national pay spine if they are successful in their performance management, but now schools have more flexibility – the pay spine has been replaced with a ‘pay range’, with the points on it being more for guidance than a yearly progression. In addition, a greater responsibility has been placed upon Governing bodies to make sure teachers are paid according to the policy that their school has adopted.

There are a wide range of implications with this new legislation, such as teachers not being able to guarantee their current pay when they move schools, or schools being able to offer more money to highly competent teachers irrespective of their years of service. I’m sure these implications will play out in big ways and little ways, in minor successes and personal tragedies over the next few years.

My main concern, however, is not the pay that us teachers get, but it is the impact on the education of our country. Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education has put government money into the Education Endowment Fund. But it is the same Education Endowment Fund, hosting the results from the Sutton Trust report, that tells us that performance related pay has zero impact on education for a moderate cost. My question: why put money into something that has zero impact?

Moreover the implications on Governing bodies are serious. Most governing bodies are made up of well meaning private individuals who want to make a contribution to society. I can imagine many of these governors may have some serious concerns about taking over the responsibility for the pay of teachers – a responsibility that had previously been held nationally in the Teachers Pay and Conditions Document. My fear is that many of these well meaning governors will step aside over the next few years, leaving a governance vacuum. And who could fill this vacuum? Academy Sponsors are an obvious choice. So could it be that with this policy we end up with an education system that costs more, is less good but has more academies?