Schools could send children’s homework abroad to be marked for as little as £2 an hour to free up teachers’ time

Schools could send children’s homework abroad to be marked for as little as £2 an hour to free up teachers’ time

Rebecca Allen, head of school think-tank, said work could be sent to India
Said papers can be marked cheaply and feedback is ‘incredibly reliable’
Added that teachers could also use new technology to mark essays
But teaching unions blasted idea, saying it would do nothing to help pupils

PUBLISHED: 14:35, 29 April 2015 | UPDATED: 16:35, 29 April 2015

Schools should consider outsourcing marking to India to cut costs and lighten teachers’ workloads, according to the head of an education think-tank.

Rebecca Allen, director of Education Datalab, said that homework could be sent abroad and marked for as little as £2 per hour, and claimed that the results were ‘incredibly reliable’.

Ms Allen, who is also a reader in economics at University College London, said another alternative was to use new computer scanning technology to help mark students’ essays.

She said that teachers were now expected to do a huge amount of marking, which was often written off as ‘paperwork’, leaving them less time to prepare for lessons and spent with students.

Speaking at an Education Media Centre event, she said: ‘We have several problems here.

‘We’ve got endless policy changes which just need to stop. For now we need to have a stable curriculum, a stable examination system.

‘But we’ve got to look elsewhere. We can’t just say things like ‘paperwork’. I think we need to be realistic and think in radical ways about things like marking.’

She said that marking had become incredibly popular with headteachers and Ofsted, who use it as evidence that teachers know what is going on in their classrooms.

However, she said such work could be completed in ‘radically different ways’, including being outsourced to India for around £3 per hour.

Once the work has come back, teachers could review the marks, before giving feedback to their students, she said.

She went on to say that in the United States, there are people who are looking at using computers to mark texts, using the same types of technology used for language translation programmes.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of teaching union NASUWT, said: ‘Dr Allen is right to say that there needs to be a radical look at marking and marking policies in schools.

‘Over three quarters of NASUWT members say this is the biggest driver of workload.

‘However, it is the bureaucratic and unprofessional marking systems that are imposed on teachers that are the problem, rather than marking itself.

‘There are some elements of work that lend themselves to external marking such as public exams and standardised tests, but we would not necessarily go as far as she is proposing, that all marking should be outsourced.

‘Teachers need to be allowed to use their professional judgement on marking, and should be supported as appropriate by technology.’

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary, of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘This doesn’t take account of the nature of assessment.

‘Teachers don’t just look at the rightness or wrongness of the student’s answer – they want to understand and support the student’s learning process.

‘Outsourcing doesn’t help at all with assessment for learning.

‘Of course we want to see a reduction in teacher workload, but the solution surely does not lie in perpetuating a low-wage economy overseas.

‘The extremes of workload are a product of accountability to Ofsted and the Department for Education.

‘It is those policies which pile pressure on teachers and lead to 60 hour weeks, too much of which is spent on accountability rather than work that directly addresses pupils.’

Last autumn, the Government promised to look at teacher workload, launching the Workload Challenge.

Tens of thousands responded to the call to submit examples of unnecessary paperwork and administration they thought should be scrapped or cut back.

Ministers came back with a series of measures they insisted would help ease the problems, but teaching unions have argued these do not go far enough.

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