Duncan Bowyer-Lead Practitoner
After a long day at school and sometimes even a longer evening at home marking and prepping, the last thing one may want to do is add to the workload! Yet every June, there are thousands of teachers who willingly sign up for additional work; tasks that can often take up whole weekends and – in many cases – the very early hours of the morning before we start our working day! Indeed a colleague of mine once told me that she gets up at 3am and squeezes in ‘just a couple of hours marking’ before arriving at school at 7am.
Who would do this to themselves I hear you ask? An examiner!
For the last five years I have told myself ‘never again’ after sacrificing every second of spare time I have to marking the latest set of GCSEs. Every year when the new contract comes through to once again be an examiner – I always find myself signing it thinking that this year will be different. Dinners, socialising, the gym, seeing loved ones, domestic chores and binging on NetFlix are all put on hold for the marking period. Friends say I became a man possessed – desperate to ensure that I was hitting my targets, passing my standardisations, accurately marking the seed papers, annotating correctly and being within tolerance.
After a particularly gruelling marking session, I remember sitting staring at one of the last GCSE papers… I was so tired I could not even work out what level to award this student. At this point it was a wake up call – it would be unfair to mark these papers when so exhausted as I would not be accurate and the students do not deserve that; so I closed the laptop lid and fell into a blissful much needed sleep.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed that morning, I snapped open the laptop lid and looked again – I could mark it easily now as I had rested.
So the real question in this blog is – is it worth it? Contrary to the tone of my opening to this topic I would argue wholeheartedly that yes it is some of the best CPD one can get. Not only does it allow your students and department to benefit from your expertise as an examiner; it also allows you to see some of the most mature and sophisticated responses to texts. It has undoubtedly made me a better teacher and means that I can offer an extra layer of support to my team during mocks. I have also learnt from student responses some very interesting and effective alternatives to structuring literary criticism.
Don’t get me wrong-it is hard work and the money isn’t really worth it. However the support and encouragement that I received from the team leaders and principal examiners really pushed me through the process. So if anyone is thinking about becoming an examiner next year, I would say go for it – but remember these tips that I was given when I first started.
- Organise your allocation of papers so that you can do 10 – 20 per evening. This makes it much more manageable.
- Be open, honest and keep in contact with your team leader during the process. They will help make what seems like an impossible task possible.
- Remember not to mark the papers in a public place or in school (they are very big on that).
- Have a scheduled night off! Don’t let it take over your life.
- If you feel you won’t get through your whole allocation, that does not make it a failure! It is more important that the scripts are marked accurately and the boards have contingency plans for any marking that does not get completed. Keep them in the loop as to how you are doing and flag up any issues you may have as soon as possible.
- Enjoy reading the responses and awarding the marks the kids have worked so hard for!