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Saturday, 16 June, 2001, 23:52 GMT 00:52 UK
Parents paid to oversee exams
wye valley school
The Wye Valley is a specialist sports college
By BBC News Online's Gary Eason

A secondary school is paying parents to invigilate in exams - to free up its teachers for more important work.

The Wye Valley School in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, is saving about 100 hours of teachers' time over the exam season.

The school says this is expensive, professional time that can be better used.

Parents say coming in to invigilate gives them a greater sense of involvement with the school.

Pace of change

"The pressures on teaching staff and the rate of change that's required in education at the moment means we need to give staff as much time as possible to adapt," said the deputy head, Tony James.

tony james
Tony James says teachers need time to prepare for GCSE changes next year
Whereas 20 years ago the summer term might have been regarded as having a lighter workload, exam invigilating was now one of the biggest tasks, Mr James said.

Having about 140 Year 11 students doing their GCSEs meant five or six staff were needed to cover, using up typically two hours of their time per exam, during which they could not do any work.

Mr James said: "With all due respect that's not what teachers are best at doing. It's a huge waste of expensive professional time."

So the school decided to recruit external invigilators - and combine that with a drive to encourage more parents to be involved with the school.

"We checked with the exam board and they had no problem with that," said Mr James.

students
Students Sam and Rachel thing it's a good idea
A letter inviting people to come forward produced more than 20 responses. A training session narrowed this down to five who are now in the exam rooms, supervised themselves by a qualified teacher.

Crucial condition

Mr James said they were being paid at the same rate as lunchtime supervisors - about 5 an hour.

A crucial condition was that they would not be supervising their own children - which suits the students.

Year 11 student Sam, fresh from his GCSE maths, was too stressed with taking exams even to have realised parents were overseeing them. But he approved of the move.

Fellow student Rachel said: "It's a good idea - although I wouldn't want my mum or my dad doing it. I don't think anyone else would either."

susann clifton
Susann Clifton: Preferred invigilating to baking cakes
One of the parents involved is Susann Clifton, whose daughter will not be taking her GCSEs for another three years.

"I felt as if I should volunteer for something and that seemed easier than baking a cake," she said.

"I'm not into jumble sales either. But I thought I should do my bit for the school."

The training involved exam protocol, what to do if students did not understand something, how much assistance could be given - and what to do if students were taken ill.

Nose bleed crisis

Mrs Clifton said: "In the mornings it's hay fever, in the afternoons they are falling asleep.

"Today started with a massive nose bleed - I took him to the nearest toilets, gave him lots of tissues and made sure he got an extra 10 minutes at the end of the exam."

Mrs Clifton said it was a good way for parents to get more involved in school life.

"There is a sense of guilt if you are not on hand to help. It's too easy to avoid being involved," she said.

"I have more confidence being in the school now. I know the teachers a lot better...and that can't be a bad thing."

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