Marking centres are not the answer

20th December 2002 at 00:00
I've always admired ministers and officials who become experts within hours of being appointed to a lofty post.

Dr Ken Boston, new chief of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority ("Revolution planned for exam marking", TES, November 29) wants a network of marking centres. However, these will probably be in county towns leaving many markers with expensive travel or, worse, accommodation bills to pay. Expenses can be claimed but it often takes months. Why should the workers carry these bills?

The shortage of examiners is largely caused by poor remuneration. Another problem is the popularity of some subjects. Compulsory subjects like English and mathematics will always struggle for markers as their teachers have heavy teaching loads and don't want to take on even more marking.

He also suggests more internal marking. But teachers can't always be trusted to mark their own pupils' work. Most are too generous (we see this with coursework). They can't all be fully monitored by new "senior examiner" figures.

Finally, the thought of one school's teachers marking the exams of a neighbour falls flat when we realise that kudos, jobs and promotion all depend on other local schools' results being significantly worse than yours.

The problem that hit the headlines this year was not caused by the examiners. It was caused by the high and mighty messing about with grades. Start reform at the top for once, Dr Boston, and listen to the squeaky red pens of the footsoldiers who actually do the work.

E Paul Lishman (27 years a prisoner of several examination boards) 15 High Brigham Brigham Cockermouth, Cumbria

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