The silliest feedback from work scrutinies

February 24, 2019

If you teach in a state school in England, you have probably experienced a “work scrutiny” where your superiors take some of your students’ books and try to determine something about the quality of your curriculum, teaching or marking.

Here are some of the things teachers have been told after book scrutinies (collected from this thread, thanks to all who contributed).

That I’d misspelled the word ‘smile’ in several books. It actually said ‘simile’. Who the hell would be writing ‘great smile’ on children’s work?

Not responding to my student’s responses to my initial marking. In detail.

You should have used group work. There were only 5 in the class.

I had an amazing work stamper, that all of the kids in my class wanted as I didn’t give it out very often (highly motivational for year 5). Sometimes it was used daily, but mostly it was every few weeks, and kids didn’t care. [The Headteacher] saw it during a book scrutiny and demanded it be used weekly, and it had to appear in all kids books at least once per fortnight (ruining the point of good work). Also, it was a rewards policy that I hadn’t cleared with him! When I was in KS1, the HOD was *very* Keen to impose rules, and her book scrutinies were terrible; she would be v critical, but never show her own. A teacher 10 years her senior lost it at her when she was told that her ‘pink for think’ writing, was the wrong shade of pink. This same HOD year 1 teacher told me my marking should be more detailed… for year 1. In September.

Worked not marked = Inadequate.
Worked marked regularly = RI.
Children ‘responding’ to marking = Good.
Teacher’s ‘responding’ back to children’s response = Outstanding.
(From an inspector + advisor c. 2009)

‘this child has got every question correct in maths and this is a big problem’.

That [a] Well Done stamp has more value than “well done” written in pen

A direct quote from SLT:
“I can’t believe you manage to get the results you do without using the ‘Verbal Feedback Given’ stamp.”

[My wife] runs media studies and most work saved on line so “no evidence” of feedback in quite rightly sparsely filled out books. Solution – suggested she should use a dictaphone to record the feedback given to each pupil!

“It’s great that they have responded to your targets, and that you’ve then gone back and checked their responses- but you need them to respond to your response to show real dialogue.”- Back when triple marking still wasn’t enough.

I should be dating / signing each time I mark the books otherwise I could just be doing it in one go before book check as the pen colour is the same!

You haven’t used the ‘You’ve smashed it today!’ Stamp enough.

Every piece of work, even just notes, needs a GCSE grade (for all years), an effort grade, and a ‘quality of written communication’ grade. Each of these requires a sheet to be highlighted and glued in. Go back and do it to all work from September. ~ this was in February.

No numeracy in a book full of calculations
Incomplete worksheets despite being done in on the [exercise book] pages
Lack of work in [exercise books] despite having been told to focus on coursework for the last month

SEND pupils are doing too many questions and their presentation is poor as a result.
I asked three times if they seriously wanted me to get the kids doing fewer questions but more neatly. They did.

The worksheets weren’t glued in correctly

You haven’t personalised the feedback or praised the student. Written in the book was “Amazing work here x, I know you found this really hard so well done for not giving up”. This was a general comment in addition to strengths & targets given. I was graded 4 based on this too

“That writing in the margin was enough to fail me as a teacher, As opposed to finding unrelated space on another page to write corrections, rather than where the corrections actually needed to be made.”
“Funny, I was told off for writing on the next page and that I should write in the margins!”

I received a grade 2 for the [percentage] of dates and titles which were underlined in a random selection of five students’ exercise books. In ICT. Where we used exercise books purely so we could show marking. This was in the first half-term of a September.

Some children had the same target as each other. That’s not individualised feedback, which is ‘best practice’.

“You seem to tell a lot of pupils that they need to support their arguments with evidence.”

You are STILL marking in red pen!

‘They look a bit dog eared’

SLT:Your literacy was not marked in pink highlighter
ME: it takes longer to mark (Maths) work in two different colours
SLT: Bring me these books when you have marked them (backdated two months), no later than 3pm tomorrow. This is non negotiable.
I moved to a more sensible school.

“It’s hard to see progress here”
1) Well obviously.
2) It was the start of a new year. They had new books. They’d done about three lessons.

You wrote VF for verbal feedback but didn’t write down what the verbal feedback was.

Teach KS1, (Year 2), a new genre in 11 hours.

Your green pen needs to be lighter.

X appears to be missing a great deal of work – X had been in Australia

3. And I have no idea what that meant.

Not enough mistakes in maths books.

A parent was furious that their child had done no written work for ten days. I indicated that half term would have probably impacted this…

A child getting too many things right means I don’t challenge enough. Not that I taught a lesson well and they understood it! The teacher who had a child getting lots wrong challenged them more apparently

Not writing homework above homework, they were but they wrote it in Spanish, which is what I used to teach. Not good apparently, as the person checking didn’t understand!

Where are your books?
I teach music.
I gave them a cd of the kids work with my marksheet scanned in.

Why is there no work in the books? That would be because performing layered patterns and incorporating a call and response structure whilst working in groups using djembes isn’t something that can be written or stuck in a book.

I was once told to take pictures to stick in their books as a way of showing evidence 🙄 I taught every student in KS3, can you imagine the printing bill?

How about feedback on my marking feedback? “You failed to address the date and title not being underlined. Your expectations of your team clearly doesn’t match that of the school’s.”

From Ofsted, the inspector said that although my feedback was clearly effective because she could see students work improving over time, I still needed more written comments (I was using a combination of flash marking/WCF at the time).

At a previous school-
Head: why is there nothing in the books for Monday?
Me: we were on a class trip.
Head: that doesn’t answer my question.

Difficult to assess because in IT some of the work is stored electronically……

One Y11 student’s work as more disorganised than the rest. Inability to revise from his notes would mean he would underachieve. Same student dropped three marks (/240) in the mock exam a month earlier. Nailed-on Nine.

Standard coloured pen issue.
No reds left so I used pink.
That was … a mistake.

I was pulled up on the shade of my pink and green highlighter once. Coral instead of hot pink and my green had a touch of turquoise! I was raked over the coals for my transgression!

‘You’ve not used the ‘verbal feedback given’ stamp….’

“You consistently write ‘S’ for a spelling error. The school marking policy clearly states ‘SP’”

Got grief for sticking in examples of different types of task completed when the previous scrutiny criticised us for a lack of evidence of variety of tasks

I remember feedback saying that the pencils weren’t sharp enough that some students had drawn tables in and so my books weren’t well presented.

From a few years back: Can you dot or sign each page that doesn’t need marking? So that even if it’s just ‘lesson notes’ we know that you’ve seen it…and another brilliant comment: ‘Your marking could be the reason we end up in a category’.

My feedback needs to be handwritten rather than typed (and so I continued to type)

Too many ticks, not enough challenge.
Okay, but what you don’t see is the support and discussion that went on within that lesson to get those ticks.

We use folders…
How come every student hasn’t done every correction?
How come you haven’t regraded every correction?
How come very student doesn’t have every page in the exact same order?

“Well… I thought teaching them was more important than paperwork…”

The pink pen you’ve used for the ‘tickled pink’ feedback is a bit too red looking.

I got told off for using a dark orange pen when I had no red pens left in the house mad marking at stupid o’clock. I laughed.

Previous school: Your handwriting isn’t the same as the school standard handwriting.
Me: I’m 39. I can’t change it now!
Previous school – staff meeting where the head demonstrates the school standard handwriting.
Me: Here’s my letter of resignation. [Not in school standard handwriting]

‘There needs to be 12 stamps every week and 6 of them should have comments with them.’ Department marking policy gone mad and completely meaningless.

Every page of student work must have evidence that it has been seen by a teacher.

ie. there must be at least a tick on every page…

“Brilliant standard of work for year 9, but I need to see how they got there, why don’t you take photos of the mini whiteboard work and glue them in”

Head – Why haven’t they done handwriting for 2 weeks
Me – I’ve been on paternity leave for 2 weeks and the deputy heads been covering me
Head – I don’t want excuses, don’t let it happen again

That although I achieved 98% on book scrutiny for quality of work and pupil progress it would still be rated by OFSTED as requires improvement as not all dates and titles underlined with a ruler. Then told to underline them myself.

1st shocking [experience] of state school book scrutiny 3 yrs ago (after 8yrs in independent school). I teach languages. Scrutineer asked if there could be more written evidence of pupils’ oral work.
Me: Well, there could, but that would SERIOUSLY detract from the time they spend doing oral work

I got told my ticks were too big

Get students to write “homework” at the top of homework, so that the person reading it would know it was homework. So, naturally, every time I marked a set of books, I would be the one writing “homework” at the top.

Some children got them all correct which doesn’t show progress.

Get students to respond to [verbal feedback] in their books

You haven’t given written feedback since July (book scrutiny first week of September) – oh really?

They could use sharper pencils

Told off for letting kids fold worksheets when they stick them in – apparently unfolding paper impedes learning

“you haven’t stuck a teacher assessed sticker next to the piece of work” “No but I wrote detailed notes justifying the level, sub level achieved and ways forward for the piece of work” “But how do we know it was teacher assessed without the sticker?”

‘Wow I like these whole class feedback things but you should really consider writing all this feedback in your Pupil Premium books as well as give them the feedback sheets…’

There isn’t any marking for SPaG [spelling and grammar] evident in books.
That’s because there aren’t any SPaG errors

“Student X’s book hasn’t been marked since December”
Student X had moved house and was no longer on the register but his book was in the bottom of the box.

Comments should always be written straight and on the lines to show respect to students (not slanted). I was writing at an angle because certain words won’t fit in the margin if you don’t.

You should pre-trim your [work]sheets.

‘No targets for improvement’ – the pupil never made mistakes and excelled in every subject at GCSE all A* and all As at A level. He could write me targets !

Head: There was no green highlighting.
Me: he met all the objectives brilliantly and his effort was outstanding, (He’s year 4)
Head: FIND something he needs to do better!

Use a consistent colour of green pen!

“we need to evidence marking”

My sole PM [Performance Management] target at MPS6 was to use different coloured pens to mark. Under ‘resources needed to achieve PM target’ I wrote ‘different coloured pens’… under ‘action plan to achieve PM target I wrote, ‘go to shop and buy pens’… That was the PM that got me to UPS…

That I didn’t have as much in our books compared to science. I teach music.

That the 2 staff on long term illness for whose classes i was setting work for, teaching every set on a rotation to ensure some quality input and checking their work with flick marking hasn’t had their books marked well enough…

“Why isn’t there any writing in your Literacy books for two whole weeks?” (It was the Easter holidays.)

Many years ago, I was told that the cloud/bubble I drew for the child’s repsonse wasn’t cloudy enough…. I received an hour’s inset and looked at colleagues book’s to develop my clouds……


  1. Was speaking to a friend new into teaching (mature entrant) who was getting all kinds of flack last year from SLT for poor teaching …. until she got outstanding from OFSTED and her class averaged 2 letter grades higher on their exams for her subject than in other subjects.

  2. I am looking forward to reading your blog on the best feedback given after a work scrutiny

    • I think that would be very short.

      • But worthwhile… in the interest of balance, surely.

        • If people think there’ a positive side to work scrutiny feedback they should make work scrutinies optional and see how many teachers agree with them.

  3. At last! A blog that isn’t whingeing about ‘trads and progs’! For those of us working with colleagues to get realistic about marking and feedback, this is an eye-opener. Some very scary scrutiny feedback here. It would be funny if it wasn’t true. Let’s remember that chapter in ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teacher’ entitled ‘Marking is futile’. We might not all agree with that sentiment but, if there is one thing that teachers don’t need, it’s being coshed with unrealistic expectations of their feedback. And we haven’t discussed workload yet. I could go on…
    So, thanks for this, Most of my work is with teacher training and I know that new teachers find this kind of thing bewildering.

  4. Wow. I genuinely would have left teaching if I’d had to deal with this nonsense. Feel very lucky that I never had to confront stuff like this. Because I would have done, and it wouldn’t have been pretty!

  5. […] The silliest feedback from work scrutinies […]

  6. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  7. […] The silliest feedback from work scrutinies […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: