Education & Family

Thousands of teachers needed to mark new GCSEs and A-levels, says report

Teacher with pile of marking Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption More teachers need to be encouraged to become examiners, says the report

Thousands more teachers will be needed to work as examiners as qualification reforms kick in, suggests a report.

About 34,000 examiners currently set and mark eight million GCSEs and A-levels for two million 15-19-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But changes to qualifications and a rise in student numbers mean about 20% more will be needed by 2019, says a panel of exam boards and head teachers.

The report heralds a push to recruit more teachers as examiners.

Reforms to exams are under way in all three nations which are, according to the report, "creating new challenges for the system".

The report highlights changes to qualifications in England which "are driving a change" in the numbers of examiners needed.

In particular, cuts to the amount of coursework in England will see the hours of exam assessment in most GCSEs increase from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half, say the authors

Additionally, the reformed exams require less knowledge recall from candidates and more analysis and so more of them will "need to be marked by a highly skilled subject expert", they add.

The panel, which includes representatives from the major exam boards as well as head teachers' leaders from both the public and private sectors, also suggests that fewer resits under the new system will reduce the overall number of exams - but will add to demand for examiners during the peak summer marking period.

Shortage subjects

Finding enough teachers to become examiners could be particularly difficult in subjects where there are shortages, says the report.

And teachers who are struggling with their daily workload may not want to take on the extra burden of becoming examiners, it adds.

In addition, the pay structure for examiners which is often per script or per question can put off teachers, making examining feel like an administrative job rather than "one for skilled and experienced professionals", say the authors.

"It can also make it difficult for prospective examiners to understand how much they will be paid and to value their time appropriately."

In a bid to boost examiner recruitment the Joint Council for Qualifications, representing exam boards has launched:

  • a new recruitment website
  • a certification scheme to recognise schools which support teachers to become examiners
  • and an award scheme for long-standing teacher-examiners

In addition head teachers' organisations agreed to encourage schools and colleges to promote examining to staff, provide practical support and to recognise examining as a way of boosting teachers' subject knowledge and professional skills.

"The nature of the reforms is that we will need more examiners... and we want to ensure that the quality of these examiners is good," said Dale Bassett, head of curriculum strategy at the AQA board and chairman of the working group which produced the report.

"Rather than waiting for this to become a problem we are proactively working to recruit these extra examiners," Mr Bassett added.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: "It is important that exams are marked to a high quality and standard.

"We welcome the work that the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), awarding organisations, and head teacher associations are doing to recognise the valuable role of examiners."

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