Teachers at an independent school have been accused of failing their pupils by using symbols when marking key end-of-year tests.
A new logo system was used at £18,900-a-year Putney High School, south-west London, this summer to help assess the work of 11 to 14-year-olds.
This replaced the use of teachers’ comments, forcing children to work out for themselves where they had made mistakes. The all-girls school said it also ‘saved valuable time when marking the papers’ but critics said it was ‘fashionable nonsense’ that panders to ‘snowflake’ pupils who need to receive clear, useful feedback.
Antony Barton, who is head of English, said the school tested the new approach for summer exams in Key Stage Three (ages 11-14).
Teachers at an independent school have been accused of failing their pupils by using symbols when marking key end-of-year tests. A new logo system was used at £18,900-a-year Putney High School, south-west London, this summer to help assess the work of 11 to 14-year-olds
Writing for the Times Educational Supplement website, he said: ‘We put an end to all teacher comments other than a brief line of genuine praise. We had given the marking criteria to the students before the exam but, on this occasion, they also received a sheet of symbols with their returned papers.
‘The definitions alongside the symbols explained the seemingly mystical annotations that adorned the margins – symbols identifying that a particular line contained a structural problem, unclear expression or flawed logic, for example. The precise nature of the error, however, was something students had to determine.’
Staff said the approach led to students having ‘much better engagement with the marking criteria and individual corrections’.
‘They also said it saved valuable time when marking the papers,’ Mr Barton added.
The school will ‘introduce a little more distinction for some symbols and allow some discretion as to whether more than a few words are provided for the least able students’.
‘We are also discussing whether to return the papers without the grades,’ Mr Barton wrote.
‘The students would then go through the same process but grade themselves at the end. Upon later receiving their actual grade from the teacher, the students might be asked to explain the disparity between the two.’
But Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, labelled the system ‘fashionable nonsense’ and ‘another educational fad’.
He said: ‘The important thing about doing work and having it marked is that you get clear feedback on how well you’ve done.
‘If teachers are not providing that, partly to save their own time, then they’re not helping children with their education in the way they should.’
Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, added: ‘It’s part of teachers’ responsibility to make a judgment about how well a child is performing. If the children themselves, the snowflake generation, can no longer accept a judgment, it’s a very serious indictment of how we’ve brought up our young people over the last 20 years.’