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One man and a magnificent marking plan

Dave sat in the exuberantly padded guest chair in the headteacher's office, swivelling gently from side to side and scanning the assorted diplomas on the wall.

Finally, the head appeared in the doorway, gave Dave a quick glance and closed the door behind him. He smiled thinly.

"Dave, I've got you here today to discuss your marking," the head said, sitting down. "It's difficult to know where to begin. You ask your students to submit homework by email, is that correct?"

"Err, yes. Computer literacy is very important," Dave replied.

"But you demand that they submit it in Word 6 format. Why is that?"

Dave looked down at the head's vast desk, took a deep breath, and said: "Because my Indonesian guy doesn't have anything higher than Word 6."

"Your Indonesian guy?" the head repeated, blankly.

"Yes," said Dave. "He can't open Word 97 documents. Though for the rate he works - just #163;1.50 an hour - it's a small inconvenience. Much better than that Mumbai guy I had last year. This one gives me a spreadsheet with a question-by-question breakdown for each student. Very professional."

The headteacher re-ran what he had heard through his mind. "You outsource your marking to some Indonesian guy?"

"He's not just some Indonesian guy, he's a PhD graduate," Dave explained. "He's better qualified than me and he's faster - he'll chew through a class set in under two hours, easy."

"And he marks all your homework?"

"No, don't be silly." Dave said chuckling. "I've got a postgrad in Jakarta for the chemistry questions."

"And what if a pupil doesn't do the homework? How exactly do you catch up with them when some stranger roughly 3,000 miles away is marking your work?"

"The markers just send an email through to the call centre in Delhi. He chases up any missed homeworks that evening and rings the parents. It's very effective. And it leaves me time to do all the teaching and inspiring stuff."

"Does your head of department know you do this?" the head asked, incredulous.

"Of course, but as all my groups perform on average at least a grade and a half higher than the other teachers she doesn't have a problem."

"A grade and a half?" the head mused, suddenly more interested.

"Yeah," Dave said. "If you'd like to know more I can forward your questions to the marking department. I'm more of a holding company for the Dave Consortium."

Andy Richmond, Physics teacher, Weymouth.

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