A-level and GCSE examiners are to be given “real-time” information on how pupils have performed nationally in this year’s exams, before they start marking their papers.
England’s biggest school exam board, AQA, is piloting the scheme that will see markers briefed over the internet on the latest trends that have been spotted in students’ scripts.
They will be shown real examples from the actual question papers that they will go on to mark. Online “webinars” will also mean the markers can be told about any issues that have emerged about the way candidates have responded to the questions.
The board believes that providing this advance information can help improve the quality of marking, something that has become a bone of contention for many schools in recent years. Heads’ leaders have welcomed the idea.
Andrew Hall, AQA chief executive, said: “We understand that getting the right result is crucial for both students and teachers. The way we train examiners to mark papers at the moment works well, but we are always looking for ways to improve.
“Research from CERP, our cutting edge research centre, tells us that giving more examiners access to the principal examiner to get guidance directly from them can help encourage an even more consistent approach to marking across a wider group of examiners.
“This ultimately can help improve the quality of our marking and is something that is a real focus for us.”
The pilot beginning this month will cover GCSE religious studies and A-level English literature. The results will be evaluated later in the year.
Brian Lightman, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, said: “This is excellent news. We have had very constructive discussions with AQA about how we can work together and improve marking further and this is one of the ideas that we discussed.
“It should improve marking quality because it will ensure that all markers are fully briefed and have a real understanding of the marking scheme.”
At the moment, the board’s markers are briefed shortly before the exams begin each year, about the specific paper and the marking guidance or mark scheme they will use, by a senior examiner who will also monitor their performance.
Under the pilot, examiners will also be invited to an online “webinar” hosted by the principal examiner in the subject, which will take place after the exams have taken place, but before marking.
In March Mr Hall suggested that appointing an independent ombudsman to handle appeals from schools against examiners’ judgements and giving examiners more freedom to use their professional judgement would improve the system.