Markers' comments on way out

30th May 2008 at 01:00
The days of schools receiving pupils' exam scripts back with markers' comments may be numbered, after the head of a board said they were a thing of the past

The days of schools receiving pupils' exam scripts back with markers' comments may be numbered, after the head of a board said they were a thing of the past.

Jerry Jarvis, managing director of Edexcel, said annotations on scripts were "yesterday's stuff".

Schools should instead rely on other ways of analysing pupils' exam performance, such as chief examiners' reports and mark schemes.

Mr Jarvis's comments - at a media briefing at Edexcel's central London headquarters - come with controversy continuing to dog the board's use of marking technology.

Edexcel has pioneered the introduction of on-screen marking of millions of pupils' GCSE and A-level papers. Scanned scripts are sent to examiners electronically, for marking on the computer.

It has been claimed that the technology makes it harder for examiners to include comments on pupils' scripts. Teachers and pupils can apply to have a script returned if they want to query a grade.

The comments, some teachers say, make it easier for them to understand how an examiner reached a decision on awarding a mark, and to decide whether or not to appeal.

Last year, The TES reported how Bedford Modern School in Bedfordshire received scripts back in music technology, chemistry, politics, English literature and PE without any annotations.

Rival board AQA has said it will not press ahead with the on-screen marking of essay subjects until the annotation technology improves.

Mr Jarvis said examiners could make annotations on scanned scripts, by using the keyboard to write text, or selecting a comment from a drop-down icon. Some markers say these are hard to use.

Mr Jarvis said: "The thing that disappoints me is that a teacher would rely on what are random anecdotal comments, rather than use some of the available technology.

"It used to be the only bit of feedback that you would get on the examination paper was some random comment, if you were lucky."

Stephen Smith, Bedford Modern headteacher and a former examiner, said: "If he regards annotation as random comments, then I would think the accuracy of the marks are likely to be as random.

"Without comments, you have no idea of how a candidate has reached a particular level."

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