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Smart planning and marking to focus on learning - not paper pushing

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teaching blog computerBy Lesley Allwood, Headteacher, Winteringham Primary School, Lincolnshire

Winteringham Primary School in rural Lincolnshire has introduced smart paperless planning and “write, reflect, mark" sequences during lessons to help reduce task-duplication, improve learning and help teachers have a better work-life balance.

Since starting my career as a teacher, I've faced what I believe to be a common problem: task duplication. Consistently, I found myself preparing smart presentations for my lessons, then typing up lesson plans containing the exact same information to be checked by senior members of staff.

I always wanted to spend more time preparing the teaching of a concept and less time gathering evidence that I was actually doing it. Producing paper plans made me feel like I was doing two jobs to serve one purpose. I would spend hours typing up and printing off lesson plans which just got put into folders that someone claimed to check and Ofsted inspectors didn’t want to see.

In January 2011 I became a headteacher - with a teaching commitment - of a small primary school. I was keen to try out planning in a different way, one that avoided the double workload described above.

Four years on, our planning is now completed solely using smart presentations; nothing is printed out, and we save the presentations on a central server so they can be amended and re-used.

All our smart presentations include an objective, on which we then base our differentiated success criteria. This, together with any other information required for learning, is all prepared on the presentation - typed or handwritten depending upon the lesson. Because all of the scaffolds, tasks and worksheets for teaching are included in the presentation, it’s much easier to use when delivering the lesson as these can be modeled effectively, allowing you to spend time developing the children's learning. Crucially, there is no need to hold on to a piece of paper, trying to work out what you need to say next.

Peer marking and beyond

Another workload issue I was keen to tackle when I became a headteacher was marking. To be efficient in our marking, we now use self and peer marking, training the children to engage with the success criteria.

Our teaching involves "write, reflect, mark" sequences during the lessons. This not only reduces the volume of teacher marking, but also makes the children independent learners, focusing on what they need to do (or amend) to achieve the learning objective, rather than producing vast quantities of possibly incorrect work that a teacher has to mark at the end of a day in which little learning has occurred.

We also have a succinct, coded mark scheme that all year groups recognise and understand, with a way forward that is usually linked to the success criteria.

We discourage staff from writing detailed feedback after a lesson, and encourage oral whole-class, group, or individual feedback to happen during the lesson. The use of smart presentations has also meant that a series of lessons can be saved over each half term and easily revisited with classes to recap on learning and reinforce links between lessons.

This system of working not only saves time day to day but also means that during lesson observations we can demonstrate seamless learning.

Connecting planning, delivery and marking in this way has made us more efficient and effective; our Key Stage 1 and 2 results are now consistently above national average. More importantly, though, we have children who are confident in how to learn from a very young age, and happy teaching staff who have a work-life balance. In school we are able to spend more time on what counts: the children.

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  1. Comment by R. Lamb posted on

    Both of these sound amazing! I would be very interested to see a copy of the smart presentation to have an idea of what it looks like, together with an example of marking? Thank you.

    • Replies to R. Lamb>

      Comment by Lesley Allwood posted on

      We are back at school on 11th April, so just drop us an email or give us a call. These are on our website.

  2. Comment by Ken posted on

    Hello Lesley,

    I would have liked to see a copy of your smart presentation, together with an example of marking. I did have a look at your website but I couldn't see these anywhere? I like the idea of focused verbal feedback during lessons but does that not mean that you have reams of books with very little teacher comment in them?

  3. Comment by Anne posted on

    Do your pupils stick success criteria into their books? If not how do you display differentiated sc?

    Thank you

  4. Comment by Wendy posted on

    Good to read this approach being promoted on My teachers also plan straight on to Smartbook and have been doing since 2013, as I am adamant their time needs to be spent on the things the children will see and use, rather than on a beautiful sheet of planning that will sit on the wall for a week then be filed away for evermore. My teachers like this system and agree it has improved their workalike balance. Each child then has a slip of paper with the Learning Objective differentiated three ways, which they stick in their books. They then indicate which level they think they have met at the end of the session and rate the level of difficulty of the task.

  5. Comment by paperwritingservice posted on

    Nice Blog!Thanks for sharing.