As a supply teacher, you're expected to mark all work from the lessons you've taught unless you're told otherwise. It would be unfair to expect the permanent class teacher to mark work from a lesson they weren't even present for. However marking work in a school you've never been to before can be tricky, especially as every school seems to have a different marking policy! Here are some tips to make sure you mark books to the appropriate standard without it taking hours and hours.

Find Out About the Marking Policy

When you’re new to a school make sure to find out about the marking policy. A great way to find out is to ask the parallel class teacher, or another teacher, for a quick explanation. They’re always happy to help and appreciate your efforts to do things properly. However, if all teachers are busy or you’ve been called into the school at the last minute and have less time to do this look for the marking policy on walls or in the front pages of exercise books. Exercise books give great clues as to how the teacher likes to mark. It gives examples of what colours are used for marking, correcting and next steps. This alone can be enough information for you to mark work effectively.

How Much is Enough?

In general, it’s usually good to take the time to mark the core subjects with a tick and a comment relating to the LO (Learning Outcome) or WALT (We Are Learning Today). Corrections are also great to do, especially in regards to spelling and grammar. The next steps are not always as obvious when you do not know the children, so unless you are very sure of a next step you can usually leave this for the teacher. This means that some schools — not all of them so it is worth checking — like you to write ‘supply’ at the bottom of each page, as the standard may not be quite as high as usual marking. For non-core subjects a simple tick might be enough. Look back through previous work to see what is appropriate.

Saving Time

Once you’ve figured out what colour pens to use and how to mark, how do you mark as efficiently as possible?

  • Bring your own pens - Every school seems to use different colour pens for different reasons and it is likely you will find yourself frustrated at times thinking, “Where can I find a purple pen?!” This is a huge waste of marking time and it can be a great help to bring your own green, purple, red, blue and black pens with you to the school.
  • Mark some books during lessons - It’s good practice to mark the books of the group you are working with, usually in purple pen, during the lesson. They can even respond to their next steps there and then.
  • Leave books open - Ask the children to put the books in a pile, open at the page you will be marking them.
  • Use breaks - Breaks and the first part of lunch are a fantastic time to get some marking done. It then means you’ll have less books stacked up at the end of the day and you can leave at a good time. Of course, if you’re feeling like you need a longer break that day or you really want to use your breaks for a well-deserved cup of tea, you should do so.
  • Buy a “supply” stamp - If you’ve found out the school wants you to write “supply” on each piece of work, a great time-saving tool worth investing in is a stamp.

Hand Over

Writing a note for the class teacher is a great way to communicate significant points of the day that need feeding back. You can also inform them of any books you left unmarked if you felt unsure of what to do, or any children that may need catch up time.


Claire teaches through Zen Educate. Ready to give it a go? Find out more about supply teaching in London with Zen Educate