Next step - How do I become... an examiner

6th February 2009 at 00:00
The thought of marking more papers may repel some teachers, but becoming an examiner means better money and greater insight into what gets results

Marcello Giovanelli: "the best professional development I've ever had".

Volunteering to mark 400 GCSE papers may seem like masochism, bordering on madness. But working as an examiner has two big benefits: it brings in extra cash and it makes you a more effective teacher.

"You gain an insight into what examiners are looking for," says Pam Taylor, chief examiner for English GCSE for Edexcel. "So you can teach pupils the right techniques."

"All teachers are examiners as they assess pupils' work, but professional examiners are paid to grade external tests and examinations, usually to nationally set standards," explains recruitment analyst John Howson, of Education Data Surveys.

As for the money, the obvious question is how much? "Enough for a holiday" promises the AQA website - though whether that's a week in Wales or a month in Mauritius depends on how many scripts you mark.

In most subjects, taking on a "standard allocation" earns you about pound;1,300 before tax. And that's where many teachers draw the line. But if there's a shortage of markers, you'll be offered a second batch of scripts, paid at a higher rate. Perhaps even a third batch. And some examiners rake in serious money by working for more than one exam board, marking January resits, and moderating coursework as well as exams.

There are also opportunities for promotion. Once you have got a few years' experience, you can apply to become a "team leader" - supervising a group of colleagues to ensure consistency. After that, there's the possibility of becoming a principal examiner, working full-time for the exam board, setting questions and drawing up mark schemes.

Marcello Giovanelli is assistant head at Mascalls School in Paddock Wood, Kent.

He says: "Working as an examiner has been the best professional development I've ever had. It's a great way to get to know the syllabus, and I think it's pretty well paid. I began marking English A2 papers, both language and literature, back in 2002 and became a team leader 18 months later.

"During the main marking period I put aside three or four hours each day, and try to be disciplined. I pin a chart on the wall, setting myself a daily target, and when I reach that number of scripts, I stop.

"It's important not to let the marking take over your life, otherwise it can get on top of you and you make mistakes. Working as an examiner has been a good career move: it's opened other doors for me, and I now also write textbooks and resources. The key to success is to be realistic, and make sure you don't take on too many scripts."

Next week: How do I become. a deputy head

Everything else you need to know

  • Pay About pound;1,000 after tax per batch of exam papers. Broken down as an hourly rate, a rough estimate would be pound;20 to pound;30. It depends how quickly you work, and first-timers may take a while to get their heads around the marking scheme and admin duties.
  • Next steps Vacancies are advertised on exam board websites. Apply from November onwards for summer marking. Look out for special training days for new examiners.
  • Key qualities Self-discipline and time management skills are essential.

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