School scraps grades to improve pupils’ mental health

Tes reports that a private school in London has abolished grades at key stage 3 to “remove unnecessary levels of stress” and improve pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.

Putney High School decided to scrap grades for Years 7, 8 and 9 after carrying out research that suggested students’ learning improved when teachers used comment-only marking.

The idea was the brainchild of Antony Barton, the school’s head of English. He told Tes: “When a piece of work is handed back, the students’ attention tends to gravitate immediately towards the grade or the letter at the top of the page, and you often hear students saying, ‘What did you get?’

“So I thought, ‘Well, let’s just see what would happen if we removed that focus on the students’ positional value and started to focus them much more on the comments themselves.’”

Under a five-month randomised control trial, a Year 7 English class, a Year 8 French class and a Year 9 geography class all introduced comment-only marking.

The French treatment class was the best-performing class in the subject in the end-of-year exams, “allaying fears that a lack of marks might reduce achievement”, the report states.

But Suzie Longstaff, Putney High’s headmistress, told Tes “Mental health and pupil wellbeing have to be central to everything we do,” she said. “We want to remove unnecessary levels of stress for children, teachers and parents.”

Mr Barton said most students “recognised after a while that their work was improving”, and that teachers also noticed a change in their behaviour.

“They were actually asking for pieces of paper on which they could make notes about how they could improve in the future, whereas in other classes you have students whipping out calculators trying to work out their percentage.”

Read the full article School scraps grades to improve pupils’ mental health

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Categories: Exams, Learning, Mental Health, Private Schools, Secondary and Teaching.

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