My pupils would have done better at marking than ETS

22nd August 2008 at 01:00

ETS Europe has been fired! The news that the US-owned marking company had been given the boot was a delight for teachers like me who had witnessed first-hand the mess it caused.

Despite the stories in The TES from markers that all was not well, nothing had prepared me, or my colleagues, for the chaos surrounding KS3 results at the end of last term.

As the science department gloried in the inexplicably early arrival of their good results, small fears began to set in over at the English department - why hadn't our pupils' results arrived?

Rumours started spreading. The growing stress of the teachers was mirrored, ever so slightly, by the pupils.

The late arrival of the results did nothing to settle our department's fears. Our English results were far lower than expected. However, on selecting a few papers from pupils who had been predicted high grades but had then inexplicably fallen off the scale, it became clear that the test scripts had - in our pupils' words - been "marked bad".

"Bad" was an understatement.

The staffroom was full of pained expressions and anguished mumbles from teachers whose reward at the end of the long exam term was to spend days locked up re-marking papers that someone else had been paid to mark.

Words we might use behind closed doors to describe our more challenging pupils were now being directed loudly at Ed Balls.

There were even mutinous mutterings (admittedly, after a few medicinal pints) suggesting what revenge could be exacted, preferably on the aforementioned Ed's balls.

Our pupils are well trained in peer marking, and have learnt to fill in "What Went Well" and "Even Better If" hints when assessing. I can only imagine the helpful comments we'd all suggest after this disaster, if we are expected to take the 2009 exams seriously. We stupidly assumed that the same blood, sweat and tears that teachers pour into their marking would be mirrored, if not outdone, by ETS Europe, whose marking skills were deemed to be worth pound;156 million.

The pupils themselves would have done a better job - and made a nice little saving for the Treasury.

Hannah Venn, Teacher of history and English at a secondary school in Brent, north west London.

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