Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Marking 08

On Tuesday, I went to the markers’ meeting in Glasgow, an annual event attended by the hard-up, hardworking or just plain masochistic teachers who volunteer to mark (in this case) Higher English – the English exam taken by Scottish pupils who hope to gain university entrance.

Markers come from all over Scotland and you meet some people there year after year. Rather pathetically, it feels like a bit of a day out. I get the train through to Glasgow, which counts as excitement in my life, and a taxi – a rare event – to the venue. We then get free coffee and muffins! Later, even more thrillingly, there’s a free lunch.

We’re paid £2.67 per script and the first evening it took me three hours to mark seven scripts. I reckon that’s about 60 pence per hour. This is the point in the process when you think about how free that lunch actually was… .

I’ll speed up, though, once I become more familiar with the passages and the questions and stop agonising so much over the exact shades of wrongness of some of the students’ answers.

On the train on the way home I talked to a fellow marker whose teacher husband left her for the school secretary a few years ago. Now the deserted wife has a new partner, a millionaire businessman. He’s actually an old flame who sought her out after thirty years apart. You couldn’t put this in a novel because it would seem unrealistic, but there she was, glowing with happiness and prosperity.

I bet she won’t be doing The Marking next year…

And now I must ignore my garden in the evening sunlight and get down to work with a red pen.


  1. My father-in-law taught English in Ayr for years and he too used to mark exam papers. He did it every year and every year said he would never do it again!

  2. You're doing God's work, or some close approximation thereof. It's so interesting to me, seeing the whole process of education from the other side of the fence.

    I'm so glad your fellow marker has a second chance at happiness, hopefully with someone who will appreciate her true worth. I won't be surprised if you see her next year after all, though. I doubt any of the markers are performing the service for money, so it has to be from dedication and a sense of the value of the job.

  3. Good for your friend- the best revenge is a life well lived (with a mega-weatlhy partner!)

  4. The photos/flowers are beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Have you considered taking your comedy routine on the road? I bet you'd get paid better than you do for all that marking! So glad your colleague had another shot at being happy---and prosperous to boot. Hope the faithless one is cooling his wandering heels at impoverished leisure somewhere!

  6. Quite a few of my friends mark too, and their homes are starting to pile up with papers again! Mind you, a lot are now scanned in and sent to places abroad too, I gather. Hmmm. Not so good.
    It is not long though to your summer holidays, Isabelle. At least yours start long before mine!

  7. Is that an alium? I'm dreadfully ignorant of the actual names of most flowers!

  8. How on earth could you ignore that beautiful garden? I love your story about the fellow marker -- serves the old coot right. And how perfect for her -- I hope she's deliriously happy now! Don't work too hard at your marking!

  9. i did a little research after you told me about your "thing", and if you want a way to make more money using your your blog you can enter this site: link. bye.

  10. Ah, I hadn't realised how enlightened the Antipodes are. We get paid an hourly rate for HSC marking. It's done in a very concentrated period (English is a couple of weeks, subjects with a smaller candidature less time) and involves going to a site and marking there, after school and on Saturdays (think big draughty hall filled with exam desks and lots of teachers, head-down tail-up). So you suspend your life for that time. Very useful info to take back to your classroom.

  11. A labour of love indeed. Good for you! It sounds rather enjoyable really.
    I love the fairy tale ending of the deserted wife story :) Well deserved after suffering the indignities of a faithless husband.
    Your alium is beautiful. Mine are the same color, and blooming now too.
    I hope you're finding some time to potter in the garden between marking.

  12. A very intriguing post.
    I would love to know the more trivial details of the faithless husband, & the long lost wealthy lover.

  13. Allium! Beautiful! Theoretically i have one of those...somwhere in the overgrowth.

    Loved the story about the markers. I worked marking Art for about eight years. 6 hours per evening on site, very tiring, in rows of desks for the papers and panels for the artworks.

    I am renowned for the incident during the dinnerbreak once when I fancied I would take out one of the horses next door for a spin, and had to ride it back to the marking pavilion because they locked the stables up. The supervisor who chastised me could barely contain her laughter. I was stuck with this huge prancing chestnut HORSE.

    Mind you, this was in the city near a large riding centre, unbelievably.

    Funny at the time.

    Still I always felt honoured to be marking these things that would dictate what kids would do with their lives.

  14. I took my "A" levels back in 1955 (God! that sounds like ancient history!). The results were so important: the announcement of them so ominous: those who got good ones were so happy. We never realised what went on behind the scenes with all those poor "markers".
    This is my belated "thank you".

  15. I'm new to your site and already I'm missing the next update but presume you are stuck with the dreaded marking .....hope it's going well.

    Lesley x