Teacher-examiners are a bonus

19th December 2003 at 00:00
Sue Roberts might have done better to start her thinking about exams and examiners from a different premise (Talkback, Friday magazine, November 28). Surely the question that should be asked is not whether examiners should be allowed out from their classrooms to perform examining duties, but why there is such an emphasis on public exams?

The situation has worsened over the past few years with the introduction of Sats and the modular system at AS and A2. Add to this the need for resits, and you can begin to see the scale of the problem each board faces.

Ms Roberts prides herself on knowing what examining is all about, having performed the task herself. Surely then, she must see that her suggestion to give examiners a week off to perform their duties is naive and unworkable. One way around the problem might be to reintroduce coursework, to be set, marked and submitted to the board by teachers who are then remunerated at the going rate as part of their classroom duties.

I can understand her frustration finding cover for absent colleagues, but I take issue with her comments about whether or not continuing in the exam system benefits the school any more than having one stab at the job. I have always seen the fact that teachers are examiners as entirely beneficial to schools. There are several chiefprincipal and senior examiners on the staff where I work. It gives pupils an enormous feeling of security that their teachers know exactly what's required and that they will keep abreast of any changes. Schools should add this to their prospectus as a positive part of their service.

I have been examining for the past eight years, and my teaching adapts to all the new information and knowledge I receive each time I attend standardisation meetings. My AS and A2 teaching shows real focus and is substantiated by year-on-year experience of marking.

Marking scripts in the middle of the night during January, February or midsummer is not the most exhilarating experience, but examiners are a special breed who simply get down and do it. No one should do four or five-hour stints - it's exhausting and unproductive - and if an Ofsted looms, potential examiners should give marking a miss for that year.

Ms Roberts' final paragraph: "Three cheers for the head who told the principal examiner that being in school on a week day was more important than feeding back exam information to teachers..." was upsetting and unhelpful. Sometimes problems need to be considered from a much wider perspective than simply the personal difficulties experienced by, say, finding supply cover. She might want to consider what damage staffhead relations might suffer because of her inflexible attitude.

Vivienne Neale teaches in Cornwall

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