Is Your Book Scrutiny as Effective as it Could be?

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Is Your Book Scrutiny as Effective as it Could be

Recent changes to the inspection framework have made it clear: when judging teaching over time, more weight needs to be given to the evidence of learning as evidenced in learners’ books.

This should naturally lead to much more focus being given to book scrutiny as a natural part of a school’s self-evaluation process.

In addition, monitoring arrangements need to be adjusted to give greater emphasis to book scrutiny.


Book Scrutiny = Focus: Sample Size: Time

We are emphasising FOCUS: SAMPLE SIZE: TIME.

In other words decide on a focus related to your school priority.

Then ensure that you have a manageable sample to look at and finally ensure you give yourself a time limit.

One of the ways in which schools and academies have had the greatest impact with book scrutiny is to set up a situation where teachers are used to having their books looked at. There are several ways of achieving this in a non-threatening way. An example of this is outlined below:

  • Fortnightly impact meetings with a colleague focusing on book scrutiny.
  • One colleague brings a pre-agreed set of books to the first meeting and then they alternate at their next meeting.
  • Pairs should not be ‘experienced’ and ‘less experienced’ teachers but teachers should have a certain amount of freedom to choose their own partners.

This should then be followed up with ‘half termly’ pupil progress meetings with phase leaders; leading to termly summative pupil progress meeting with the headteacher/principal.

In this way teachers get used to their books being a major focus when looking at the impact their teaching is having.

When focusing on key questions to follow the following may be a useful starting point for you:


Marking and Feedback

  • Is marking up to date and in line with the school’s policy?
  • Are responses to pupils’ learning helping them make progress by identifying at least one key area for improvement?
  • Are ‘barriers to learning’ being identified and then used to plan future learning?
  • Is there evidence of a climate being created where pupils’ learning, in the form of finished outcomes, is really valued?
  • Is there evidence that learners’ successes are being ‘celebrated’?


Is the learning appropriately dated and does presentation meets the school’s expectations?

Is there evidence that basic handwriting, spelling and grammar are improving?



Are learning objectives very clearly linked to the learning outcomes?

Is there evidence of practise and consolidation, where it is appropriate?

Is there evidence of the principles of British Values being adhered to?


Challenge and High Expectation

Is the work completed/planned linked directly to year group expectations?

Is there evidence of high expectations and learning being challenging enough?

Is there, through the feedback, marking and type of learning provided, evidence of a culture and ethos of scholastic excellence being promoted?



Is there evidence that those requiring intervention are being identified so that all learners keep up?

Is learning appropriately differentiated with evidence conclusive within different books?

Is there evidence that differentiation is achieved by emphasising deep knowledge and through individual support and intervention?

Is there evidence of deep learning, especially for more able learners?



Is there evidence that pupils’ understanding during a lesson is being systematically checked and adjustments made as needed?

Are there procedures in place to help learners know exactly what they need to achieve?

Is there conclusive evidence of pupils demonstrating sufficient gains in knowledge, skills and understanding?

Has progress been rapid enough from the beginning of the year; and last half term to the present day?


Continue the Conversation

For more top tips on book scrutiny and school leadership resources, keep an eye on the Focus Education blog, join me on twitter @Clive_FocusEd or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818.

I also have a book out called Making Book Scrutiny More Meaningful: Linking Book Scrutiny to Teaching Judgements which you can by clicking the image below.

Making Book Scrutiny More Meaningful

Making Book Scrutiny More Meaningful

Defining High Expectations in Your School

Defining High Expectations in Your School

Improving Teaching Through Effective Feedback

Improving Teaching Through Effective Feedback

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