Tougher new GCSE exams could lead to a national shortage of examiners, a Birmingham teaching union has claimed.

Recruitment adverts for GCSE markers placed on city buses and in the pages of cruise holiday magazines may not be enough to help solve a staffing shortage, said Chris Keates, general secretary of the Rednal-based National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

Her comments came after sweeping reforms to both GCSEs and A-levels that will see students facing tougher standards to achieve top grades from September.

The changes – described as the “biggest shake-up” of the education system in almost three decades – will see a move away from coursework with GCSEs and A-levels becoming overwhelmingly exam-based.

It is feared the reforms will steep pressure on exam boards with extra papers to mark, with the full impact expected to be felt by 2019.

Ms Keates said the reforms had created “an enormous challenge” to recruit more markers.

She added that the qualifications reform had been “poorly thought-through” and “driven by ideology not evidence”, with too little thought for the resources needed to implement the reforms.

Major exams board OCR said it would need to hire thousands of extra staff to mark exams to cope with changes instigated by Michael Gove during his time as Education Secretary.

Mark Dawe, chief executive of OCR, said the board “struggles every year” to recruit examiners but next year may see a need for an extra 5,000 staff.

“Given we have about 15,000 markers at the moment, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s going to push on to over 20,0000 ,” he said. “It may be more.

Chris Keates, the NASUWT general secretary
Chris Keates, the NASUWT general secretary

“We recruited an extra 4,000 this year.

“We’re in a better position than we have been.”

He said, in order to combat shortages, the board had advertised in a P&O cruise magazine for the first time this year, after one of its examiners went on a cruise holiday and noticed how many teachers – both serving and retired – choose to holiday at sea.

It has also placed adverts on Birmingham buses on routes going past schools.

Subjects which create the most difficulties include religious studies – where the number of entries has dramatically increased in recent years but which has fewer qualified teachers – as well as history, English and geography.

The Government said if OCR was not confident of getting enough markers the board should pull out of its contract and let someone else offer the qualifications.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “Our new exams have been developed with subject experts, industry and universities and are being phased in to give schools time to prepare.

“If an awarding agency like OCR chooses to offer a particular qualification, it is incumbent on them to make sure they have sufficient high-quality markers.”