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Make your mark this summer

If you can face yet more marking over the long holiday, assessing exam scripts can be a nice little earner, writes Jim Sweetman

Fancy an extra special holiday this summer and a tick in the professional development column of your threshold assessment form - all without leaving your house? If so, you should think about becoming an examiner.

This is the time to do it as the national awarding bodies - the latest name for examining boards - are just starting to work out whether they have enough examiners to mark this year's papers. And, as usual, the numbers will only just add up as there is a national shortage of assistant examiners and, in almost every subject, the awarding bodies are looking for new faces.

There are some real advantages to becoming an examiner. The first is the cheque that pops through the door - you should earn about pound;700 for a summer's work - just as you are worrying about how to pay for your holiday.

Many teachers believe examination work is badly paid. But when you include the allowances for such extras as attending meetings on Saturdays, and realise that after your first 100 scripts you'll be marking quite quickly, the pay starts to look better.

Apart from the cash there are other benefits. The new threshold assessment requires teachers to get involved in professional development. Becoming an examiner in your subject is one of the best ways to advance your understanding of the subject and the latest developments in teaching.

You'll also meet a network of other professionals with the same problems and issues that you have to resolve on a day-to-day basis back in school.

Do you qualify? The most important criterion is teaching experience in the subject - but you don't have to be teaching full-time. And you don't have to work for the same awarding body whose syllabuses you teach. You'll find people who were NQTs the previous year working alongside retired heads and mothers who are taking a break in service to raise their children. What you also need is a good eye for marking and the ability to follow soeone else's mark scheme precisely.

What's in it for your school? Most examiners reckon their understanding of papers and mark schemes delivers better results for their classes. Knowing what examiners look for helps you guide your students in the right direction and, once they know that you mark the papers, you'll find they listen more carefully too.

At a time when performance is measured in terms of exam passes, this can be a real benefit to the school and, if you promise to pass information back to fellow teachers, few heads will begrudge you the necessary day off for the standardisation meeting - especially now they can claim your attendance allowance.

In the long term, you can expect to be promoted, perhaps to team leader, which will mean responsibility for the work of six to 10 assistants. You are paid more - about pound;200 - for this. And if you like writing or reviewing exam papers, other opportunities will arise in the hierarchy.

Is there a downside? Well, the work does eat into your evenings and you have to timetable yourself so you get a set amount done each day. And, realistically, you should keep your weekends free for catching up. But this is only for four weeks or so, until about the time schools close for the summer.

What you will encounter is the full range of work in your subject. Every new examiner is struck by the sheer quality of the best work, produced under exam conditions by 16 and 18-year-olds. It's a useful reminder of what teaching is all about at the end of another hard year.

Contact any of these awarding bodies with your details and the subject you teach.

* OCR, Syndicate Buildings, 1 Hills Road, Cambridge CB1 2EU * AQA NEAB, Devas Street, Manchester M15 6EX AQA * SEG, Stag Hill House, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XJ * WJEC, 245 Western Avenue, Cardiff CF5 2YX * EDEXCEL, Stewart House, 32 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DN * CCEA, Clarendon Dock, 29 Clarendon Road, Belfast BT1 3BG Jim Sweetman is the author of Curriculum Confidential: a guide to the national curriculum (Coursework Publications)

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