English test markers target met

Warwick Mansell

A desperate drive to recruit thousands of markers for a national test to be taken by 600,000 pupils next month has succeeded at the last minute, England's test regulator revealed this week.

The National Assessment Agency said it had taken on its target number of teachers for the key stage 3 English tests, despite warnings earlier this year that it was struggling with recruitment.

Officials said 2,000 markers, paid around pound;1,000 each, have been recruited after it emerged that a document sent to local authorities late last month admitted there were problems.

The leaflet, explaining the Government's KS 3 strategy, said: "Marker shortages exist in a number of subjects. Right now there is a need to recruit markers in KS3 English in both reading and writing."

An agency spokeswoman said the information in the leaflet, which some schools received only last week, was now out-of-date.

She said: "We have since then recruited 100 per cent of our target in KS3 English."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "The leaflet said there might have been some potential problems. But we have addressed that now. As far as we are concerned, there is not a problem in terms of markers."

Pressure on the agency to ensure that this year's KS3 English tests run smoothly is huge, after a fiasco last year which led to the resignation of Jonathan Ford, its former managing director.

Hundreds of schools complained about last year's results after some pupils were awarded grades up to five levels lower than expected.

Computer problems meant that thousands of results were not late last summer, forcing many staff to spend holiday time checking data.

Private consultants and senior government officials have been drafted in to work with agency staff to ensure a repeat is avoided this year.

The National Association for the Teaching of English warned in February that this year's recruitment drive would not be successful because teachers had become reluctant to back a discredited system.

Mick Walker, the agency's director of examinations management, said at the time: "We are right on the edge in terms of recruitment."

Earlier this year, however, the agency and the Edexcel board, which is running test recruitment, offered pound;200 to teachers who could persuade a friend to become a KS3 English marker The agency said some teachers were also working as markers.

The representative body for Britain's largest exam boards launched a new website this week.

Information about the qualifications system, including exam times, access arrangements and appeals procedures, can be accessed from the Joint Council for General Qualifications site, www.jcq.org.uk.

* warwick.mansell@tes.co.uk

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Warwick Mansell

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