As the summer 2015 exams series begins this week, exams office staff across the country are proving to senior leadership teams why they are a pivotal part of every school team.
Exams officers have been planning for this period of the school year for several months, assessing the requirements for an array of exams and the varying needs of a range of candidates.
It is imperative that senior leaders support exams officers over the coming weeks in all aspects of their role.
This could include dealing with instances of malpractice in accordance with the rules as set by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) in their publication Suspected Malpractice in Examinations and Assessments: Policies and Procedures 2014/15, (produced on behalf of the awarding organisations) or holding regular meetings with your exams officer to discuss areas for improvement and additional support – and indeed highlighting what is going well.
So, as the exams series begins, what should senior leaders ensure is covered, or is in place?
Below are 10 areas which could serve as a “last-minute checklist”. It is not comprehensive by any means, but at this stage of the exams process, it highlights some critical areas which all schools should ensure are addressed and well-prepared.
Have controlled assessment/coursework marks been checked for accuracy and submitted by the published deadline to the relevant awarding body/bodies?
Are invigilators prepared for candidates who arrive late for an examination? Are they aware of the process for dealing with these candidates and the JCQ guidelines?
Are invigilators prepared to deal with any emergencies which may arise in the examination hall, such as a fire alarm or an incorrect paper disseminated to candidates?
Does each exam room contain an “Exam Room Incident Log” (see further information)? This should be in place to record any irregularities that may happen in the exam room at the point of occurrence. After the exam(s) in this room, incidents recorded will help to inform required follow-up actions or reports to awarding bodies. The incident log should be affixed to the seating plan, copy of the attendance register(s), and exam room checklist for this exam room session.
Is your school ready for the JCQ centre inspector with policies to hand? Remember, that this is an inspection of the school, not your exams officer.
Have access arrangements candidates been duly accommodated?
Are invigilators who are acting as readers and scribes clear on their role? Are they fully aware of the JCQ regulations?
Is there sufficient invigilation cover for candidates being supervised between examinations in the event of a timetable variation/clash?
If you allow private and/or transferred candidates to sit exams at your school, do you have processes in place to confirm their identity?
Can the JCQ Instructions for Conducting Examinations booklet be viewed in the main examination hall? Consider having this available on a laptop or tablet – a hard copy paper version is not necessary.
Senior leaders should also be aware of the process regarding Special Consideration. JCQ’s Guide to the Special Consideration Process clearly sets out the definition of Special Consideration, which candidates it could apply to, tariffs relating to Special Consideration, and how to process such applications.
However, the main issue to consider here (and this something that many schools fail to adhere to every year) is that all queries relating to Special Consideration must be addressed with the relevant awarding organisation and not JCQ.
You cannot plan for every eventuality, but you should have contingency plans in place for some possible scenarios, such as fire alarms, candidates feeling unwell, attempted malpractice, etc.
It is important to note that from the summer 2016 exams series onwards, it will be a requirement for all schools to have an Examination Contingency Plan/Examinations Policy on file for JCQ inspection purposes.
I wish all those either sitting, administering or managing examinations the very best of luck over the coming weeks.
My final piece of advice is to remember that if you have any questions, or are uncertain about any aspect of any exam, contact your awarding organisation. They are fully prepared to deal with any issues, and are committed to helping you in delivering their examinations.
However, more than anything else, work with your exams officer to resolve any issues, as even the most thorough planning sometimes fails to cater for the varied, and occasionally bizarre, situations which occur during an exams series.
Further information Photo: iStock
Jugjit Chima is one of the founders of The Exams Office, an online support tool for exams officers and data managers. Visit www.theexamsoffice.org