All teachers should learn how to mark exams, says head of OCR board

All suitable teachers should mark exam papers as a form of professional development, according to the head of one of England’s biggest school exam boards.

Speaking at a debate at the Royal Society of Arts in London today, Mark Dawe, the chief executive of OCR, said that schools needed to consider assessment as a system of “give and take”, in which they provided and supported examiners.

“If every school worked that way, we’d have enough examiners,” he said. He added that understanding assessment should be part of all teachers’ CPD.

“I think all teachers should have a good understanding of assessment and examining,” he told TES after the debate. “One of the ways of developing that is by becoming an examiner.”

The panel discussion considered whether it would be possible to establish examining as a professional route for teachers.

Sarah Jones, of the education thinktank LKMco, said that teachers and heads would object to the suggestion that they ought to be giving something back to the exam system.

“They already feel that their whole lives are spent fulfilling a duty to other people,” she said. “To tell them on top of that, ‘You have a moral duty: give me some examiners’ – I don’t think that’s going to play very well.”

And Michael O’Connor, a former headteacher and a member of the OCR advisory group of examiners and assessors, said: “Should people have to examine? You’ve got to want to do it. Making people do it would be a recipe for disaster.”

Mr Dawe acknowledged that it would not be possible to force all teachers to become examiners. “Some people just aren’t capable of marking, and we aren’t willing to use them,” he said. “It’s important for the students that we get good markers.”

All members of the panel recognised that recruitment would become increasingly difficult, with the predicted shortage of teaching staff. This week, TES reported that OCR has been hoping to recruit retired teachers as exam markers, by advertising in P&O’s cruise magazine.

But Cherry Ridgeway, of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the panel that teachers needed more time and better pay if they were to undertake marking work.

This was echoed by Mr O’Connor. “Pay them better, pay them better,” he said. “It’s dead simple.”

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