UKEdMag: Exam board work by @chris_eyre

Do you teach examination groups at GCSE and/or A level? If so, here’s a question: have you considered working as an examiner? I realise you are already ridiculously busy but bear with me. We all want our students work marked well and rather than sit by and get frustrated, here’s one area where we can be part of the solution.

This article originally appeared in the free May 2016 edition of  UKEdMagazine – Click here to view.
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I realise there are downsides; taking on extra work at the only time of the year when school or college is slightly quieter is the main one. But what does it really involve? Essentially It is a commitment of 1-2 hours a day over a 3-4 week period. You might take 1 day off each week for good behaviour. So we are looking at about 10-15 hours a week and it’s not forever. Secondly, there are also a small minority of institutions where examination work is viewed negatively ‘you should be fully committed to the school’ or ‘you’re clearly not busy enough.’ Unfortunately this is very short-sighted.Given the difficulties exam boards are currently facing recruiting examiners I suspect the time is coming when schools and colleges will be incentivised to release examiners. I think if institutions were given a discount off exam fees for every examiner they provided, headteachers would soon change their views on this.

Given that the disadvantages are not totally insurmountable let’s consider the advantages

  1. Most importantly, It’s the best CPD you can get if you’re teaching an examination course. This is particularly true if you get a face to face standardisation meeting. Given that direct CPD from exam boards is reduced following the scandals of a few years ago, this may be your main chance to get into the head of senior examiners and understand how they think and mark. This will improve your work in assessing your students the following year. You will become the departmental expert on that course.
  2. You will be paid. It’s not the main reason to do it but important nonetheless. As a result of examiner shortages – which I have written on previously – the fees have been increased in a lot of subject areas. It’s not a fortune but there has been the odd year when my exam board money has been the difference between having a holiday or not, or being able to keep a car on the road.
  3. One thing leads to another. You never know where it will lead. From my initial exam board work came opportunities to be a team leader, a principal examiner and then involvement in writing and revising exam papers. I have been asked to co-write textbooks and to speak at student conferences. At a time when the staffing structure at college was largely static, this was a good way of building up my CV.

As well as the advantages for you and your institution, there is also an argument from duty and responsibility. At a time when there is a shortage of examiners and in particular teacher examiners, the system (and our students who are in it) needs as many of us as possible to step forward and play our part. It may be a little late for this summer (but check with your board they are still advertising in a number of areas) but why not put examination work on your CPD plan for next year?

Chris Eyre @chris_eyre is Curriculum Manager for Religious Studies and Philosophy, and Lead Practitioner for ILT at Stoke-on-Trent sixth form college. He is an experienced examiner and has co-authored A Level textbooks. He blogs on well being and other issues at –

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