By Dr. Helen Wright MA OXON. EDD, PGCE.
Chair of the Advisory Board at Mark My Papers
6th September 2019
The more I see of the work of Mark My Papers, the more impressed I am – and the more I see the positive impact this service is having across the education system, for students and teachers alike. As it grows and supports schools, teachers and young people in government and independent schools in the UK, Middle East and India, with new schools (and countries!) coming on board all the time, the more delighted I am to be involved in helping to shape and guide it.
What, though, does Mark My Papers do? Put simply, it is a marking support service for students and schools, who can submit their completed past papers and have them marked, at minimal cost, by an experienced examiner who will give detailed feedback. In effect, it gives access to examining expertise for anyone who needs it, matching examiners carefully with examinees. It makes sense that the more access young people have to experts, the better able they will be to meet the challenge of their examinations, and this is what Mark My Papers facilitates.
Students approach Mark My Papers usually because they are uncertain about how to improve their grades (or, indeed, how they are actually performing). Sometimes this is because their teacher is not a specialist – far too many schools are in the position at the moment of not being able to find or afford specialists, even in core subjects. Sometimes (often, in fact), it is because their teacher is too overworked to be able to give detailed feedback. This is absolutely not the fault of teachers, rather a reflection on what is expected of them. Sometimes, the students don’t have teachers at all – a growing number of children in the UK, for instance, are home-schooled (a 40% rise from 2015-2018). Access to examiners and their expert guidance can be hugely reassuring – and incredibly useful – to all of these students, whatever their reason for requesting the help.
Schools – even very good schools – approach Mark My Papers because they value the detail in the written feedback (which I have found personally fascinating to read – I have learned such a lot!). This can of course be enormously helpful for teachers who are new to teaching a particular subject or exam specification, but sometimes the schools just want to check they are on track, in which case moderation of some of their practice examination scripts has proved, judging by the comments made by schools, really useful. Moreover, a few extra marks here and there, or a few tweaks to exam preparation, can be all that it takes to nudge a school up the league tables; and for some schools, this is actually quite important.
Finally, teachers approach Mark My Papers because they have discovered that it is a very cost-effective way to get an injection of personalised professional development, using their own class scripts. Sometimes – like all of us – teachers suffer from a crisis in confidence, and need some reassurance. Besides, why not reach out to others to help improve our own practice? When guidance is available, we should grasp it with both hands!
Perhaps most importantly of all, for me, however, is the fact that Mark My Papers equalises access to examination marking expertise. Everyone really can benefit from the connections that are being made across the wider education community. Examiners who teach part-time but who really enjoy marking are matched with students or teachers who just need a little guidance; students who are floundering or struggling realise that they are not alone when they gain insights into their exams, provided by people in a different part of the country (or world), but who understand exactly what they are going through. This is how we can and should all work together …
We all know that exams are not the be-all and end-all of education, but while they continue to be an important gateway to higher education and beyond, it is important that we provide the very best support we can as a society to every young person, regardless of their background.
The heartening testimonials that arrive each week demonstrate that we are helping to make this happen. I am proud to be a part of it.