Ofqual chief: exam markers ‘don’t do it for the money’

Paying them more wouldn’t raise standards, Glenys Stacey argues

Ofqual has rejected claims from leading private school headteachers that the quality of exam marking would be improved if teachers were paid more for marking.

Speaking at the annual gathering of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference in St Andrews today, the exam watchdog’s chief executive Glenys Stacey said she was not convinced that higher pay would improve marking standards because most examiners “don’t do it for the money”.

“Most teachers become markers to get close to exam board specifications and mark schemes,” she told the school leaders. “It is not clear to me that paying markers more will of its own deliver improvement, although of course we don’t argue against this.”

‘Pay teachers properly’

Ms Stacey’s comments came after Sarah Kerr-Dineen, headteacher of Oundle School in Peterborough, told the delegates that marking should be “professionalised” and that, as part of this, exam boards should start to “pay [teachers] properly” for marking papers.

Boards should ensure markers have “the support and the status that enables them to think [marking] is a worthwhile thing to be doing, not just a bit of pocket money in the summer holidays, which they are doing at the fag end of the year when they’re exhausted,” she said.

Ms Kerr-Dineen added that she was concerned about exam boards’ use of “single item marking”, in which exam scripts were split up so that instead of marking a candidate’s whole script a marker would deal with a large number of responses to the same question.

This process “simply spreads the damage of the incompetent marker”, she said.

But Ms Stacey said item marking was “at least as effective, if not more effective, than whole papers being marked by one individual.”

She added: “I realise this may not chime with a more intuitive view, but it is well-researched and evidenced.”

Ms Stacey also said that extra checks on the standard of the tough new maths GCSE, which is being taught for the first time this year, meant that the new papers from the four main exam boards would be of an “exceptionally similar” standard. The checks were introduced after boards were told to tear up sample assessment materials because they had not been pitched at the right level.

However, Ms Stacey acknowledged that there was “still more to be done” to improve marking and exam-setting in modern language A-levels. Last year the watchdog ordered improvements after concerns were raised that it was too difficult for able students to receive the top grades.

She told heads the watchdog was also set to launch a consultation on how the system of appeals against grades could be “significantly improved”.

“We have been working with the exam boards to look at enhancements that can be made to the current review process to counter unacceptable differences in marker judgement,” she said.

Private school teachers should take ‘leading role’

Meanwhile Ed Elliott, headteacher of the Perse School in Cambridge, told the conference that private school teachers should have greater influence over the design of qualifications and play a “disproportionately large role” in the exam marking workforce.

“I want those really good teachers to get into exam boards and take a leading role in the design of the next generation of qualifications so we can make sure they are as fit for purpose as possible,” he said. “I want us, the schools, effectively to become them, the exam boards, by populating the exam boards with the very best talent from the independent sector.”

He added that private schools should “guard against the danger that we are seen as privileged whingers standing on a posh sideline in the education debate.”

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