Reviewing your examination year

Written by: Jugjit Chima | Published:
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Conducting a review of your school’s ‘exams year’ can help to cut out wastage and improve key processes for the future. Jugjit Chima advises

Although good practice in the reviewing of various aspects of teaching and learning is commonplace in schools, rarely is such scrutiny placed upon examinations. As a senior leader, are you aware of how examinations are conducted in your centre or how much is spent in your centre on examinations? Or how much was spent on late entry fees?

The case for conducting a review of examinations does not solely rest upon the need to ensure financial efficiency. Senior leaders should also be aware of what has worked well, what hasn’t, and whether the exams officer within their school is supported in implementing the raft of assessment changes which have taken place in recent years (and will continue to take place until summer 2019 at the very least).

The importance of reviewing, and improving, the processes associated with the administration and management of examinations should be seriously considered by all schools. So, what should be included in your “end-of-year examination review”?

First, the purpose of your review should be clear – that is to provide senior management with an overview of the exam year, highlighting what went well and what could be developed/improved in terms of exams management and administrative processes. With the input of your exams officer, any risks within the system should be identified.

This review could also inform your exams policy and contingency planning – policies which are required by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) – while also detailing exactly how the exams budget is spent. With regard to particular areas which should be included within your examination review, you should comment upon the following:

Planning for examinations

  • Qualifications data collection: which staff did/did not provide timely and accurate information as requested?
  • Access arrangements: were the roles/responsibilities confirmed between your SENCO and exams officer? Was the appropriate evidence of need and normal way of working to support access arrangement requirements for individual candidates submitted in an accurate and timely manner by your SENCO?
  • Controlled assessment/coursework: was this administered and undertaken in line with JCQ and awarding body regulations?

Making examination entries

  • Entry processes and internal entry deadlines: how were these communicated to staff? Which members of staff/departments failed to meet these deadlines, and what was the subsequent cost?
  • Checking candidates’ entries: what was the process for checking that the correct entries had been made?
  • Making changes to examination entries: were all changes made to exam entries within the deadlines stipulated by awarding bodies? If not, what was the cost of making these changes?

Pre-examination

  • Access arrangements: were applications made within the JCQ deadlines? Were candidates aware of the arrangements which were in place for them?
  • Invigilation: how were invigilators recruited and trained? What was the cost of deploying invigilators?
  • Were there any issues with exam rooming and timetabling? Were additional rooms required to support access arrangements candidates?
  • Were there any “clash candidates”? If so, how were they supported?
  • What was the process for briefing candidates and staff (and parents?) on exams timetables and the rules and regulations as set out by the JCQ?
  • Were exam papers and materials stored securely at all times, with receipt and tracking logs used to maintain the integrity of the examination?
  • Were teaching staff made aware of the process and deadline dates for controlled assessment/coursework marks and sample submission?

Examination days

  • Were all exams run in accordance with JCQ’s Instructions for Conducting Examinations?
  • Was an incident log provided for every exam room for any irregularities to be recorded by invigilators? Was the information that was recorded followed-up with the appropriate action – for example, candidates arriving very late, instances of malpractice, or the application of special consideration?
  • What was the outcome of the JCQ inspection? Were any areas identified as in need of improvement?

Results and post-results

  • Were results issued in accordance with JCQ release of results information/guidance?
  • Provide a summary of post-results services applications, including the number of grades which were altered and the total cost for using the various awarding bodies’ post-results services
  • When are certificates due to be disseminated to candidates? What is the policy for uncollected certificates?

Conclusion

Conducting a review of your examination year is not a straightforward task, neither is it one which should be solely undertaken by your exams officer. Yes, they should feed into this review, but ownership lies with the senior leadership team. It may also be presented to your headteacher and governors for approval.

  • 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

Further information

  • The JCQ document Instructions for Conducting Examinations and other related JCQ documentation can be found via http://bit.ly/1IlLSZP
  • Results and certification information from JCQ can be found at http://bit.ly/2986TwS


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