Negotiating Time to Mark GCSE and A Level Work

By The Arty Teacher - May 6, 2022

How do you go about negotiating time to mark GCSE and A Level work? If you get a day off timetable to do this, you are lucky as many art departments don’t. Here are some ideas to use to your advantage when talking to your Head Teacher or senior leadership team. Demand time to assess!


You have to make some assumptions. Assume it takes 20 minutes to mark one student. (In non-covid times that is only 10 minutes for each component). You may wish to pick another number. I’m assuming I know the work well, and that there has been some assessment as the course has progressed. Times 20 minutes by the number of students you have, and BAM! you have a quantity of time needed. Of course, you may not get that much time, but it’s a starting point for negotiations and highlights the huge amount of time needed.

Ask when you are supposed to fit this time into your week. This is especially difficult because best practice means you shouldn’t be marking alone.


Other subjects in your school do not have to mark their student’s exam work. The work is sent off to be marked. The teachers who mark this work are paid to mark it in their own time. You are not.

Limit Cover Lessons

If there are a number of you in your department, it is unlikely that everyone is going to be given time off-timetable to mark. Who is going to mark the work? If you are a head of department you may want to pick the person with the most experience or you may want to pick someone who could benefit from the experience of marking. Look at your department’s timetable. Find a day when you and your colleague have the least teaching periods. This will have the least impact on the cost of cover and your classes. If you have a number of periods of cover required, this may help your negotiations.

Professional Bodies State We Need Time

In the document ‘Art & Design Education, a Guide for Governors and Trustees’ which is a guide developed by The Arts Council England, NSEAD and the National Governance Association, it states that art teachers need dedicated time to mark. It states:

“Are you aware that art and design teachers need dedicated time to mark and internally standardise
work within the examination period?”

You can see this document here. See page 6.

Internal Standardisation Has to Take Place

You cannot have teachers within a department marking in isolation unless you are a department of one. If you are a department of two or more, one person has to ensure that you have consistent marking standards. You can read about internal standardisation on the AQA website here which also has some useful ideas if you are a department of one.

Top Tip:

If you do manage to get a day off timetable to mark, it’s still a huge, exhausting challenge to get it done in one day. It helps if all teachers have pre-marked, using the assessment objectives so that you can rank order students from different teaching groups.

Always mark from the bottom up, looking to reward achievement rather than taking marks off. Celebrate what your students have achieved!

There are more posts on The Arty Teacher website about running an art department.

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The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

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2 responses to “Negotiating Time to Mark GCSE and A Level Work”

  1. Tracy Broadhead says:

    Bravo Sarah. I always fought hard to get time off to mark. I would also factor in time to get the work out, including 3D work and time to put it away. I would take photos of a set of coursework and a set of exam work in those days, and use that to enlighten LT. It’s not just about sitting comfortably in an office and reading essays. You need a room, without disturbances so you can do the job properly…just the same as a moderator in my opinion. Just getting the work in rank order takes time. I would time us marking five sets of work and take a generous average. As we know we can mull over a set of work for far longer than is needed sometimes searching for marks and others are quick and straightforward. I would put all of this into a document to present to my line manager to take to LT meetings. Aside to this a day off timetable for standardisation is a must. We were fortunate to get two staff off for a day for each endorsement at GCSE and A level plus the whole team for a day of standardisation. We certainly had to fight to do this. I retired early three years ago so good luck to anyone fighting their corner…you deserve and need this time.

    • The Arty Teacher says:

      Yes, getting the work out is time-consuming and physically exhausting! Space is needed to do the work justice. I agree that going to a standardisation meeting is a must. I try and do GCSE one year and A Level the next.

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