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What they say... parents and carers

Letters Page in The Independent

Letter: Education quandary
My daughter's homework gets only scrawled comments and mistakes left uncorrected. Why don't teachers mark properly?

Reply: Hilary's advice
If this is happening in many subjects, then take the matter up with the head. Ask what the school's homework policy is, and show examples of where it is not being put into practice. If there is no sign of the school taking action, take the matter up with the governors. Why should students bother with homework, if teachers can't be bothered with homework? But it is important to understand what "good" marking is…

Another letter
Last year I moved jobs and our son, against his will, had to take up a place in another school. In his former school homework was either "read this chapter" or "finish off what you were doing in class" and assignments were often not returned for weeks. We all thought this was normal.

In his new school every piece of work is commented on and returned the next lesson. As a result his work has come on in bounds. Yet this school is just another local secondary school. Parents need to know that homework is a direct reflection of a school's culture and leadership, and do something if things don't seem right. Neil Lamott, Cheshire

Another letter
As a tutor, I see school work corrected by many different teachers, and I am often appalled by the slackness and unhelpfulness of the marking. I know teachers are overworked and underpaid, but unless they give priority to thorough, careful marking, their students cannot learn how to improve their work. One sixth-former was surprised to hear from me that he should start a sentence with a capital letter; corrections by his English teacher, at his expensive, well-known boarding school, had never made it clear this was necessary.'
Jane Darwin London SW7

And one more!
I have just spent an entire Sunday afternoon working my way through 32 history essays. My writing hand is aching, and I have not spent the hour in my garden that I had planned. If comments are "scrawled" and if mistakes go uncorrected it is because if teachers worked any slower they would never eat, sleep or shower, let alone have any sort of normal life.
Mary Bray, Essex

From the TES Staffroom

Last year my child was taught by a very senior teacher in a large comprehensive school with good academic standards. My wife and I had two gentle face to face talks with a teacher (Feb 2005) concerned that he was not marking our child's classwork or homework typically for 10 weeks at a time. In June 2005 we again discovered that no marking had been done since January 2005 so we wrote in to the teacher and to the head. We received a letter from the teacher offering no explanation or apology and saying that the books would be marked soon. The head replied that he was sorry we had written in but not, apparently about the issue that had caused us to write to him. He said that he had seen the teacher's reply and hoped we were now happy. I wrote back to the teacher disappointed with the reply that he gave and heard nothing back from him. The head (playing for time) avoided direct comment on the issue when I pursued it. The teacher was in charge of the teacher training at the school. The teacher concerned retired in July 2005 although he maybe retained as a consultant. I discussed the matter with the Chair of Governors who says that now the teacher is retired there are no issues for the school to address.
My concerns
1) The head seems unduely complacent. I do not think he could reasonably expect us to be happy with the unduely complacent reply we received from the teacher. What can the head reasonably do to reassure us. This was not the first time we expressed concerns about marking but this was the most senior teacher we had had concerns about.
2) This teacher was very senior and influenced / supervised qualified and student teachers. Some of the student teachers are now NQTs at the school. Will they pick up on his example and not think that marking is not important.
3) Is he really suitable to be retained by the school as a consultant?