Confessions of a marked man;Talkback;Opinion

29th May 1998 at 01:00
So why are you doing it?" "The money." I say, although I know I should have said professional development, broadening my experience of assessment, gaining insight into a process which has caused considerable professional concern. But it was Saturday morning, I was knackered and truth, we're told, brings its own rewards.

All over the United Kingdom, markers of English, maths and science national tests were being trained to handle this year's exam scripts. A man from the exam group was waving lots of plastic bags in the air. You've got to make sure you don't confuse your R2D2s with your C3POs, or Parcelforce gets agitated.

Our room had sturdy Victorian pillars, enormous gilt mirrors, fluted plasterwork, ornate chandeliers - rococo-Titanic I decided. Below, auditions for Annie were underway. On our way in we'd had to clamber over clipper-loads of ginger-topped aspirants, shoe-horned into position on the floor of the foyer, shackled to their excitable mothers. Now snatches of their ever-more urgent shanties filtered through to disturb our reveries.

We'd had to mark a variety of trial scripts in preparation. We handed them over when we arrived and now we were waiting for the naming and shaming to begin.

The training process was obviously under inspection. Dark-suited, clipboard-wielding sharks cruised around the edges of each colony of markers. We huddled closer for protection and carried on.

Interpretation of mark schemes and application of criteria took up a large portion of the day. There was a lot to absorb. The old hands smiled knowingly and asked probing questions about envelopes and package numbers. I chomped on my extra-strong mints and wondered how long it would take.

I don't know if I'm going to enjoy the next few weeks. I don't spend enough time with my children as it is. This is an extra burden. If I grit my teeth, think of England and the World Cup, I might just get through. Our front room needs plastering, and the plasterer has quoted pound;600 for the job, which will take him two days. I wonder how many hours of marking I'll have to do to pay the bill. Perhaps I should have tried for a part in Annie instead.

Gavin Knight teaches English at St Edmund's school, Dover, Kent

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