Edexcel employee claims that GCSE essay papers 'were marked by unqualified staff'

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The Independent Online

An employee of Edexcel, one of the big three boards, says he was "astounded" to mark extended writing papers from the religious studies exam without having studied the subject at GCSE. Edexcel admitted this week that it had used administrative staff as markers - but said they had appropriate degree- level qualifications or had been teachers.

The board said that non-teacher markers only "mark short answers, freeing up experienced markers to mark the longer, reasoned answers and essays".

But the marker, quoted in today's Times Educational Supplement, says Edexcel would have known a number of the markers did not have the relevant qualifications or experience.

He says he was attracted by the offer of £25 an hour for weekdays and £50 at weekends - three times more than teacher markers usually receive.

Internal e-mails at Edexcel showed it was urgently seeking markers for nine subjects, not only for religious studies but also English, geography, business studies and history as well as A-levels in French, geography, economics and general studies. They invited only those with relevant experience to apply.

Edexcel has insisted only people who met the board's strict standards for marking were allowed to mark real papers. "We do not allow people to mark if they are not up to scratch," a spokesman said. "We are confident in the process and the quality of our marking."

Staff who responded to the plea for help were awarded an extra day's holiday for their work during the exam period.

* Physical education showed the biggest rise in entries among major subjects studied at GCSE. It was up 7.5 per cent from 134,134 in 2004 to 144,944 this year. This may be in response to official reports on rising levels of obesity which have led ministers to exhort the next generation to get fit in order to reduce the number of obese children in primary schools.

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