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Writing the Headteacher’s blog has made me very aware of the importance of feedback, after all, without feedback, how do you know whether what you’re doing is any good?

Children get feedback all the time. At school this tends to come in the form of marking – written responses, marks out of 10, targets for improvement and grades, along with comments about what children are doing well and guidance to support children’s development. If they’re really lucky, they might even get a sticker or a star, not to mention a ‘Shining Star’ or a ‘Wonderful Work’ certificate. Children are comfortable with this – they expect it and on the whole respond to it constructively, after all, we know that children learn best through positive messages.

Once we leave school, high quality feedback is less forthcoming. These days it tends to come in the form of online ratings: ‘hits’, ‘stars’ or ‘likes’ – or in my case scores on the rather scary Ofsted Parent View website. In a pathetic attempt to see if anyone was enjoying my blog, I checked out my blog on the school’s Facebook page, and found myself wondering whether 10 was an acceptable number of ‘likes’. Is 10 good? What if it’s terrible? Fumbling about in search of reassurance I accidentally ended up liking myself! Whilst liking yourself is probably a good thing, I understand this could be seen as a fairly desperate attempt to inflate my ratings.

Without wanting to put anyone off clicking the ‘like’ button, I concluded that this sort of feedback has limited value, especially when compared to considered and thoughtful comments from someone you know and trust. The problem is that high quality written feedback in books takes a great deal of time. Consider the maths: a general comment, a comment identifying the successes, a suggested improvement and a next-step target is time consuming. Multiply that by 30 and it’s a full evening marking books – and that’s one subject for just one lesson.

This week at school we had a very interesting discussion about marking, with the intention of establishing ways in which to provide valuable feedback in more time effective ways. Highlighter pens, the use of a set of clear symbols and training ourselves to write shorter, more focused comments were all discussed. However, we all agreed that what we all really want is good eye contact, a smile and a sincere ‘well done’.