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Exam bodies put faith in Church to find markers

VICARS are being recruited to mark religious education GCSEs because of a dire shortage of examiners.

RE is one of several subjects where a shortfall of teachers to mark exam papers is causing concern.

The demand for RE examiners has risen because of the huge success of the one year, GCSE short-course.

Since its introduction in 1997, the number of pupils taking the exam has jumped from about 12,000 to 165,000 last year, when a further 28,000 new entries were recorded.

The number of pupils sitting the full GCSE course is also rising and increased by more than 3,000 to 119,550 in 2001.

The examiner shortage is exacerbated by a lack of qualified subject teachers. Many who teach RE are specialists in other curriculum areas or teach part-time and tend not to put themselves forward to be examiners.

The problem is so acute that the exam boards' umbrella organisation, the Joint Council for General Qualifications, has now written to the Church of England in a bid to plug the examiner gap with clergy.

The letter sent to Canon John Hall, the Church's chief education officer, asked him to help recruit teachers and clergy to be trained up.

Canon Hall told The Church Times that he will now write to all diocesan directors of education asking them to encourage suitable candidates to contact the exam boards or the council. Canon Hall said: "We are obviously happy to try and help.

"The good thing about this is the massive increase in the number of students taking a GCSE in religious education.

"It demonstrates that schools are taking RE serious and delivering good RE teaching at key stage 4."

The subject is more popular with girls than boys and more than half of entries last year were awarded A* to C grades.

The Reverend John Gay, director of the Culham College Institute, Oxfordshire, an REresearch and development centre, said: "There has been a phenomenal increase in candidates due to the short course GCSE. Overall it is a very good news story."

Examiner shortages, 11

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