I know what you’re thinking. This is obvious. Well, think again.
An examiner has to provide evidence they are teaching in their field, but they don’t have to show they are any good at it.
Take the recruitment of English examiners for example. So desperate are boards to attract markers, rather than make it an attractive proposition financially to attract the very best people, they accept teachers who have been teaching for a minimum of 3 years. They literally advertise the positions as excellent CPD – in other words, you’ll be training and making all kinds of mistakes whilst students’ grades are on the line.
Examiners do not have to have read a certain text to be able to mark an exam on it. For example, the Shakespeare component offers students a range of Shakespeare plays to write about, but at no point are teachers allocated to specific texts to match their expertise in a particular play. Consequently, there is a strong chance that an examiner may have marked a script in the last GCSE exams on Othello, or The Merchant of Venice, or Much Ado About Nothing without any real knowledge of the play.
Even if they do know the play, if a student provides a quite nuanced response, is the unread or inexperienced teacher/examiner going to be able to appreciate the insight? I doubt it. Is the student’s grade going to be compromised as a result? Of course.
As teachers, we spend a considerable amount of time trying to push our brightest students to explore the subtleties of these great texts. What a shame that some of that won’t be recognised in exams.
I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more discussions about education and English teaching