As a senior examiner for Edexcel religious studies, I am not at all suggesting that having to rely on Edexcel employees to mark papers is good practice, but it is a necessary one if schools continue to refuse to let their teachers take part in examining.
More important, however, is to challenge certain claims made in the article.
First, the extended writing section of the exam is not one essay but three sub-questions linked by a common theme. The mark scheme is very prescriptive.
For example, one of the sub-sections makes a statement and asks the student whether they agree, showing that they have taken into account another point of view and a religious point of view. The mark scheme allows level 1 for one point of view, level 2 for two points of view, level 3 for these, a religious point of view and a personal opinion, and level 4 is given if they have all of this along with a personal conclusion which is written clearly and coherently.
The level is found by the examiner and then doubled to get the mark. The mark scheme includes the expected content and all examiners were told to send any answer which did not fit the scheme to be marked by senior examiners.
Second, the examiner is quoted as saying "at no point was I aware that my marking capability was being tested or spot-checked". This is one of the huge benefits of online marking. In previous years, examiners had to send samples to be checked and so knew which samples would be seen.
This year, we were able to check all examiners randomly from the day they started marking and thus any problems were immediately picked up. The marking of all examiners was monitored very closely at all stages by senior examiners and team leaders.
I am not saying that this is a perfect system but I feel confident that more students got the right grade this year than they have previously. My final point is that if this Edexcel employee felt so out of his depth, why did he offer to do the marking at all? (Oh yes, pound;50 per hour!) Emma Watson 39 Bellevue St Scarborough North Yorkshire