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Book scrutiny: is this really a tool for support or monitoring?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Jan 17, 2019.

  1. yodaami2

    yodaami2 Lead commenter

    Ooh, could you describe your policy. I'd love to see a workable one.
  2. yodaami2

    yodaami2 Lead commenter

    Oh gosh, I wish I was Australian! For many reasons but primarily this.
    agathamorse likes this.
  3. yodaami2

    yodaami2 Lead commenter

    Monitoring/ a tool for criticism.
    Anyway. MY POLICY is I mark books when I can. They've made me start writing the letters WWW and EBI ( an ****** complete waste of my skills) It's for SLT not for the kids. They don't get anything from it. I mark tests/ exams promptly and give detailed verbal feedback immediately. The only bit of this policy that is meaningful is the feedback of assessments/tests/exams.

    It was the early 1990s when this all started. I wonder why? Answers on a postcard.

    PRE 1990s I used to scan books, look for common misconceptions, or individual struggles, which I would then address appropriately and mainly verbally in the lessson. Oh, and I would put a symbol to show that I had checked their books, so there'd be no slacking. I think it was a.. yes a tick.
    agathamorse and Morgelyn like this.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    You are assuming that every teacher will always follow the marking policy, and always get it right. Or that it would be pointless for a HoD to look at marking across the department to see if the policy could be improved.

    Imagine that a parent in Year 11 rings the school to complain that their child’s book has not been marked since September. How would the school explain that no one picked this up?

    I don’t think that the process should be used as a way of persecuting teachers, but everything we do should be open to observation. It’s basic professional accountability if nothing else. That’s all I’m saying.
  5. ajrowing

    ajrowing Lead commenter

    Then a senior member of staff should politely tell the parent that there are many ways of teaching and assessing a students work and that teacher X is an experienced and knowledgeable professional who consistently teaches their classes to the best of their considerable ability and the lack of marking is therefore simply an indication that teacher X has found more effective ways of helping little Jimmy learn.
    Catgirl1964 and agathamorse like this.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    And what if teacher x is NOT doing that, they are just not doing their job correctly?
  7. Sisyphus_rolls_again

    Sisyphus_rolls_again Established commenter

    If that were the case (and I think it's rarer than some would have us believe) then if the school only became aware of it through a complaint about infrequent marking I would say that the management were so far up their own fundaments that they had themselves become incompetent.

    Imagine being so engrossed in tick box micro management as to miss someone not doing their job properly. Talk about not seeing the wood for the trees.

    Of course, some micro managing tick box office wonks would define 'doing the job properly' as ticking all the boxes, however they are defined.
    That sort of sycophantic and circular argument is the route by which we arrived where we are.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    And one way that they would know the problem existed is by checking students books occasionally.
  9. ajrowing

    ajrowing Lead commenter

    I have yet to meet anyone in teaching who goes into work and tries to do a bad job. If one has staff who are not doing their job well, which is definitely not the same as simply not doing it the latest fashionable way, then they need constructive support discover what methods work for them in their classroom with their students.. Whether or not teacher X is or is not the best teacher ever, certainly the response to a parent should be no different. If a leader does not support their staff, then they are not a leader.
    Catgirl1964 and agathamorse like this.
  10. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    It is interesting that a book scrutiny is not in fact a scrutiny of very much at all because it is entirely possible to mock up an excercise book for a fake student by simply scribbling a bit in it every single lesson under the date, title and objective of the day. You can intersperse the work with non existent words such as "wibbledy dibbledy" or "fontiscue conbrightsomely". You can put the date as three centuries too soon. Or you could fill in a couple of pages upside down. Such a book can pass through an entire year's worth of scrutinies and yet not once be challenged, meaning it is the fabricator of the book who has the last laugh. Or something like that.
    Such practice is of course cruel and deplorable, no different from purposefully guiding a blind person through a puddle of wet paint, and it is not something I would ever ever ever do.

  11. Sisyphus_rolls_again

    Sisyphus_rolls_again Established commenter

    Why exactly?

    Also, is it the only way? If not is it the most effective or most efficient way?
    Don't forget to include all of those hours spent 'evidencing' what a quick look could tell, what walking past a classroom could do, what talking to a teacher and their colleagues could do.

    'Scrutiny' becomes formalised by inadequate managers that know they are weak and cover it up with a tick box culture, where the process becomes more important than the purpose.
    Piscean1 and agathamorse like this.
  12. Christopher  Curtis

    Christopher Curtis Occasional commenter


    There are lots of good things about Australia, but there are things that frustrate me no end too.
    yodaami2 likes this.
  13. Christopher  Curtis

    Christopher Curtis Occasional commenter


    I spent 19 years in three schools as an English coordinator (the equivalent of a head of department in England), and I never once looked at the book or loose-leaf folder of a student in one of my fellow English teachers’ classes.

    I think the way English teachers think of their profession is just fundamentally different to the way Victorian teachers do, or did when I was one. Teachers here were seen as educated, independent-minded professionals and allowed to get on with their jobs, just as doctors, accountants, dentist and vets are. They were not to be “managed”. They did not have “managers”. They did not need to be checked up on.
    agathamorse, ajrowing and TEA2111 like this.
  14. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    We appear to be discussing two different topics here.

    One topic is the educational value of book scrutiny. The other topic is around teachers following school policies, however pointless they are.

    SEBREGIS appears to be conflating the two topics in an effort to avoid giving an opinion on the educational value of book scrutiny. Such is the way of school management.

    SEBREGIS makes the assertion that not following any policy means that a teacher is, "just not doing their job correctly". Again, this is utter nonsense.

    SEBREGIS, do you feel that there is any educational value in book scrutiny?
    1 person likes this.

    SEBREGIS Lead commenter

    Ok, three points.

    Firstly, I’m not in management, and have no wish to be.

    Secondly I’m not convinced that book scrutinises CURRENTLY have any educational value because the marking policies they are linked to are defective. But if you are going to mark books at all, then you need to look at how they are being marked to see what impact that’s having. Otherwise you are doing something without looking at what it achieves and that’s clearly stupid.

    I get that some people are saying that marking is a waste of time and their department or school doesn’t do it. Other people feel differently.

    To be absolutely clear - I DO believe that looking at how teachers mark their books can have an educational benefit.

    As to the arguement that if you are not following school policy you are not doing your job - Sorry, but yes, I do think that.

    School policies are there as a framework for what the school does. It’s not for the classroom teacher to arbitrarily decide which policies to follow. I don’t always see the value of uniform or homework, but I can’t allow my form to turn up in jeans or not hand it in. I can (and do) argue for changes in the policy. But as a classroom teacher, I can’t just ignore it and do what suits me.
  16. ajrowing

    ajrowing Lead commenter

    A well written school policy would allow you or I to do what we think is best for the students in our class as we are professionals. One of my colleagues never sets any homework, I set quite a lot, but rarely mark it myself, another sets a bit and marks it all. Each of our classes does well and is happy with our teaching...
    TEA2111 likes this.
  17. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    Just had feedback from the latest ''scrutiny''... they looked at two of my books.

    And as a result I have been given quite a lot of things that need improving... based on two books from two poorly performing boys. Not enough highlighting from me. Not enough yellow. As if this matters.

    This is such an ineffective system.
    agathamorse likes this.
  18. ajrowing

    ajrowing Lead commenter

    Typical jobsworth, you have my sympathy. In what world is it sensible to give a whole list of things that need improving (even if they did which is not evident in this case) all that does is annoy the person you want to change something.
    lanokia and agathamorse like this.
  19. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    "I DO believe that looking at how teachers mark their books can have an educational benefit.""
    I do NOT believe that looking at how teachers mark their books can have educational benefit.

    I believe that all professionals need to be trusted to do their job. Teaching in the UK used to be like that.

    The current UK-wide teacher recruitment/retention crisis is largely due to the pointless policies and lack of government funding. I feel it is the job of a professional to question pointless policies.

    I have seen friends suffer illness due to the pointless policies. I feel that management were not doing their jobs by creating policies which made people ill. In fact, I believe management broke the law.

    SEBREGIS I believe that we have different approaches to teaching. I believe fundamentally that a teacher should be allowed to pretty much teach as they wish. Let the teacher decide when assessment/homework is necessary. Let the teacher decide what the predicted grade for a student should be. Teaching used to be like this. Now so much time is completely wasted on non-teaching tasks such as over-assessment and data entry that the workload of a teacher is unmanageable. The management war cry of, "OFSTED require .....", is now hollow.
  20. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    Since leaving teaching I work as an actuary in which the checking and reviewing of work is a fundamental part of what we do.

    However the Chief Actuary or any other member of senior management would never check my work. In fact as qualified actuaries they have a duty to admit that they are not qualified to check my work as none of them have ever worked in my department. Any checks of this kind are done by peers, people at the same level, doing the same work. This is very different from teaching where work is checked by people who couldn't actually do the job they are checking.

    The other main difference is that checking and reviewing is seen as developmental not punitive.
    TEA2111, yodaami2 and agathamorse like this.

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