Exam markers beware, there’s a camera near you

Examiners should be aware of the dangers of social media after two separate posts on Twitter sparked concerns that exams have been marked in public.

Both tweets showed pictures of papers being marked on trains, with the posters suggesting they were examiners checking current pupils’ exams.

Examiners are in breach of their contract if they break the strict rules that govern the marking of exams in public spaces.

But it appears that at least one of the posts — retweeted more than 600 times — showed the marking of controlled assessments, which do not have the same confidentiality regulations as exam papers.

The exam board whose logo features on the papers captured in the tweet said it would look into the case, but could not confirm if they were “live exam papers”.

The posts prompted warnings for markers about the potential dangers of social media, with exam boards reissuing their guidelines.

Paula Goddard, a senior examiner and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA), said there were “very few” instances where examiners breached their contracts over marking in public.

But she warned markers to be aware of the rise of camera phones and social media: “Examples where markers are caught doing something they shouldn’t is probably going to increase. This is a good time to remind people about what they should and shouldn’t be doing.”

Ali McCree, director of the CIEA, said the postings showed a need for more “professional development” for examiners.

But an education consultant, who spoke to Schools Week anonymously after noticing one of the tweets, said the picture just seemed to be part of the “general hysteria that year 11s enjoy around the exam period”.

Schools Week approached each of the exam boards to ask if they had ever received reports of examiners marking in public places.

AQA said it did not collect figures. Pearson did not respond. Both OCR and WJEC Eduqas said they had not received any reports this year.

A spokesperson for the latter added: “Our examiners are given comprehensive guidelines that cover topics such as the marking and storing of scripts.”

The tweets are the latest example of a rise in exam-related posts on social media, with pupils taking to Twitter earlier this year to complain over difficult questions, and exam boards increasingly monitoring social media to find cheating students.

Tim Oates of Cambridge Assessment, writing for Schools Week on page 14, said social media had allowed “global circulation of all sorts of conversations that previously would simply have been between two young people outside the exam hall”.

Kunal Gandhi, AQA’s social media manager, said the board was not surprised by the rise in young people sharing views as the platforms were growing in popularity.

“Ultimately, though, we’ve always told the people who work for us that they need to be good ambassadors for AQA — so, as long as they are, the social media revolution shouldn’t cause them any trouble.”

Goddard said exam boards had been “slow to catch up” with developments on social media.

But it is clear that most have upped their social media presence. A spokesperson for OCR said it now had a team “dedicated to digital engagement, while other teams monitor social media for issues such as malpractice.

“Ten years ago an OCR subject specialist would never have been expected to talk to schools and teachers on social media but now it is part and parcel of the job, and everybody uses webinars.

“And, like most large organisations, we are moving away from traditional recruitment and engaging with jobseekers on forums such as LinkedIn. Social media isn’t special anymore; it’s just something you do.”

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