School’s nearly out for the Summer…

…but the dreaded marking period isn’t over yet.

This year, I’ve done some exam marking. I have a new found respect for teachers who mark alongside their day job. Unbelievable. You might think that when Year 11 and Year 13 go, teachers pop a few DVD’s on and chill out. Nope.

For Year 9, 10 and 12, the exam courses are all continuing and, while teachers might have some ‘gained time’ from the year groups that have gone, most will be busy preparing for September in the vain hope that they can actually have a few weeks off over the Summer Holiday.

Some teachers, however, are marking away like their lives depend on it. And I knew that those who did exam marking alongside their normal teaching load were a bit crazy, but now I have confirmation. There is no way I could’ve marked for an exam board while teaching. There was still way too much to do and I’m not the kind of person that can stay up marking till 2 in the morning and then get up early to do more. But this year, I knew I’d be able to manage my time more easily – for example, my commute now is less than a minute (walking down stairs!) whereas last year it was 45 minute drive each way, depending on traffic, so I opted to try my hand. I asked to mark for one of the RE papers. It was such an interesting experience, despite it being tedious and frustrating at times.

The training was fine, got a nice night away for it; some of the online experiences were fine but some were not. Some of the user interfaces were terrible and I felt that the exam board expected me to know some of the information, which I didn’t! I had to look for things in about three different places and getting a straight answer was very difficult.

Marking the papers was okay, worth doing for the money and a real confidence booster. It finally dawned on me how great a teacher I was, this being enforced by whole centres not knowing the answers to some basic questions. All I could think was, ‘My kids would know the answer to that!’. Plus it made me think how hard I pushed my kids. It paid off, we consistently achieved higher than national averages.

One of the things that dawned on me while I was half way through was so what? So what if the kids could say this and that about God? How will it help them when they’re older? How does getting a GCSE in RE help them? Do employers appreciate it? Does the curriculum encourage tolerance and understanding? Is the syllabus and exam rigorous enough to push and enable all students? Not necessarily. I’m not saying I have all the answers, nor do I agree with Gove and his education plan, but something does need to change. A backwards step isn’t the answer, neither is blaming the teachers.

One thing that did surprise me was that most students put a lot of effort in. I’d often wondered what students wrote when they hadn’t revised or didn’t really care, but while both these were obvious in some papers, at least they tried. Bless them!

If the exam board will have me, I will definitely mark again, if I need the money (!) and have the time. The thing that annoys me about education in the media in this country is that educationalists are always the enemy and this couldn’t be further from the truth.

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