Secret Teacher: we need to look at the lack of rigour in exam marking


Like most schools across the country, my school requests that many of the exam papers sat by GCSE students are re-marked by a senior examiner if they are just a few marks off a grade boundary. This is common practice and especially true of English and humanities subjects where the mark scheme is applied much more subjectively than, say, something like maths where there is a clear right and wrong.

This year, we’ve seen a significant number of students’ marks going up by a whole grade boundary. As head of English, I should find this pleasing – after all, it’s a win for those specific students and it helps me reach my own performance management targets by raising the Progress 8 level for the department. But having also been a GCSE exams marker over the summer, for the new English GCSE specification, these re-marks are ringing alarm bells.

Concerns have been raised elsewhere about the inaccuracy of exam marking, and I have some serious worries myself, in particular, about the moderation and standardisation process. I’ve been an examiner in the past (albeit for a different examination board and for A-level rather than GCSE) and have always received face-to-face or chat room training. This was not the case this year. Other than having to mark a small batch of practice papers, I was good to go – let loose to determine the futures of students across the country.

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