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Where challenge of marking lies

Perhaps I should be walking around with a bag over my head! I am a marker of key stage 3 English scripts. A team leader to boot. From your correspondents, it seems we have been doing the subject a disservice. The vast majority, like myself, were serving teachers, many heads of their department. We were allocated between 50 and 300 papers.

Mine arrived from all four schools in the correct order with mark sheets. Some of my team were not so fortunate. Papers arrived bundled together out of order, scripts were missing, form letters of enquiry ignored.

But never mind the admin, what about the marking? I have seen criticism on the lines of "sticking too rigidly to the mark scheme". In English, this is where the challenge lies. I defy any two English teachers to come up with identical marks for a random selection of candidates. The very weak and the very strong are comparatively easy. It is the borderline group that is difficult, especially when candidates are responding to Shakespeare. The three photocopies (TES, July 7) prove my point. In that paper we were told to assess reading. How well has the student understood the emotional aspect? If they have, the fact that the reply is couched in poorly spelt, awkward prose does not count. Similarly, the neat, well-spelt response which shows very little comprehension will lose marks.

The spelling marks were clearly wrong. It happens. There never will be a perfect system of assessment in English. Heaven knows, we have tried enough over the past few years. I think we would be wary about sending up too many howls of derision with each change. The only foolproof system lies in cloze testing and multiple choice. What would you prefer?

A large number of markers also mark scripts for KS4 and A-level - is it the fact that they were returned that has caused the reaction: better blissful ignorance?


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