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GCSE AQA English marking guidelines - no help being given

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Woollybear, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. Hello.
    I'm a newbie and I've joined this forum specifically to ask this question. I don't know if I am asking it in the right place, perhaps the moderators could move it, if not, or some kind soul could point me to where it should be posted for maximum effect.
    My wife, - let's call her Ermintrude - has been saddled with teaching GCSE English (not language or literature, just English) to the AQA exam board standard, in one year (not the normal two, as I understand it) to adult learners. I am not saying anything else about her or where she teaches, other than she started doing it last September, she is not thick, far from it, she was - until this tsunami of garbage hit her - doing a distance learning masters in teaching literacy skills while also teaching literacy. Obviously, she's already a qualified teacher etc.
    All that extra study, in fact all the fun in her life stopped over the last three or four months as gradually GCSE has taken over more and more of her life. We were going to go away this Easter, she's spent most of it tearing her hair out with frustration at AQA (this is why I don't want to give any details about her, as I am sure AQA read these forums!)
    Like all disasters, this one seems to have multiple causes - the class she's teaching are a bit lumpen and unmotivated, but she does her best. The organisation where she teaches it have more or less said, here's a room, here's a whiteboard, get on with it. The tutor/advisor or mentor or whatever they are called says, when asked anything "ring AQA and ask them" and when you do ring AQA and ask them, they usually say "look on the web site."
    She has had one day's training specifically for this, run by AQA, last year, before being pitched in at the deep end. In an effort to help her, and rescue her from her pit of despair, I've even looked at the AQA web site myself and I am jiggered if I can work out what they're on about. She's shown me the "bands" she's supposed to mark to, and it seems to me that they are couched in such vague, woolly, subjective, unspecified terms that two people could read them and interpret them differently, and how you actually mark a live "script" to them, beats me. Obviously I haven't seen any of the "live" stuff, it's under lock and key but I gather one of the main issues is that the students display inconsistency - there might be flashes of what AQA call "sophistication" and "assured writing" but then the next paragraph might be garbage.
    I just wondered if anyone else on here had struggled to interpret these complete airy fairy unrealistic gobbledeygook AQA guidelines to something that could actually be awarded as a mark, and then justified to AQA.
    My wife is her own worst critic, believe me, and she thinks all of this is her fault. I have told her that the only fault on her part, if any, is not kicking up a godalmighty fuss about being left to sink or swim. But it really is getting her down. To the extent that she is not sleeping and feels permanently tired.
    Help. Please!

  2. PS Forgot to say, she doesn't know I have posted this, I have suggested to her that SHE should join these forums, but she's very proud and independent about asking for help. I can't just stand by and do nothing while teaching this course makes her life a misery. Oh, and I forgot to say that the things she is trying to mark are "controlled assessments" apparently.
  3. sleepyhead

    sleepyhead New commenter

    I mark GCSE exams and teach the spec your wife teaches. If you PM me an email address, I am happy to give her some advice by email.

    FYI, we ALL think it's pretty wooly!
  4. Thanks sleepyhead. I could give you MY email address if that's OK and then I'll pass it on to her. I don't want this to reflect badly on her career in any way so I am trying to protyect her identity.

    Thank you so much. PM on the way as soon as I work out how to do it on this forum
  5. Right, YHM, I think, if I did it right...[​IMG]
  6. I think everyone who teaches the courses thinks much the same. It is very hard to see quite where to aim the marking - just use the guidelines for each controlled assessment and attach them to the marked work with a comment to show how she has marked it.
    I assume she has been to the standardisation marking meeting or had a look at the standardisation booklet? If not, she needs to contact AQA and get hold of one, as this gives examples of different grade work. In addition, if she logs into the AQA secure area, she can access useful material for the examinations and also the controlled assessments with some sample marked work. If she does not have a password, the exams officer at her school should make her an account. She must insist on this or get in touch with AQA to see what to do if they are unhelpful.

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