There are six exams-based policies which every school must have in place this academic year in order to conduct exams efficiently, effectively and in line with regulations.
Although these policies are only required for exams delivered by awarding organisations which come under the jurisdiction of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) – AQA, OCR, Pearson, WJEC, CCEA and City & Guilds – it is good practice that they are in place for all examinations undertaken in your centre.
It is the responsibility of the head of centre and the senior leadership to ensure that exams are delivered in line with Ofqual and JCQ requirements. They should also ensure that these policies reflect practice in their centre and, ideally, are updated on an annual basis. As with many statutory policies, they should also be agreed with governors. The following policies are required for JCQ inspection purposes:
- Procedure for the emergency evacuation of the examination room.
- Examination contingency plan/Examinations Policy.
- Internal Appeals Procedure.
- Policy covering the management of GCSE controlled assessments, including risk management and staff responsibilities.
- Policy covering the management of Non-Examination Assessments (NEA), including risk management and staff responsibilities.
- A Disability Policy showing your centre’s compliance with relevant legislation, i.e. Equality Act 2010.
Centres should also note that inspectors could in addition ask to see any written policies/procedures as stated in the JCQ regulations, such as the procedure to detail how students are identified.
These policies are required because they underpin the conducting, administration and management of examinations in your school. They confirm that robust procedures are in place – from planning for what may go wrong on an exams day, to managing the absence of your exams officer, to ensuring that candidates who require access arrangements have “a level playing field” when it comes to their exams. These policies are also required for JCQ inspection purposes and, in the case of the Internal Appeals Procedure, to meet Ofqual requirements.
The key policies
Your procedure for the emergency evacuation of the examination room should provide guidance on how candidates will be evacuated in the event of an emergency or major disruption in the exam room (e.g. a fire alarm, bomb threat, venue becomes unsuitable).
It should also detail the actions which should be taken by invigilators and instruct invigilators on how to restart an examination following an emergency evacuation. To ensure that this provides a robust and consistent procedure within your centre, you should also determine staff roles and responsibilities in relation to emergency evacuation.
An examinations policy, meanwhile, will provide an overview of the exams management and administration process, document how exam processes are managed and administered by individuals, and signpost/reference to other exams-related policies, procedures and plans.
Your contingency plan needs to highlight potential risks and issues that could cause disruption to the management and administration of the exam process, outline actions/procedures to be invoked in case of disruption, and the measures in place to mitigate the impact that these disruptions could have on the exam process.
Furthermore, JCQ requires centres to pay particular focus on planning for the absence of their exams officer at critical points of the academic year, and your centre being unavailable for examinations owing to an unforeseen emergency.
Ofqual and JCQ require each centre to have an Internal Appeals Procedure in place to ensure that appeals against internal assessments, and the subsequent decision, are administered fairly and consistently. This procedure will also detail the process for a candidate to appeal a centre’s decision not to support an EAR (Enquiry About Results) and clearly highlight the process for a candidate to appeal a centre’s decision not to appeal the outcome of an EAR.
A policy covering the management of Non-Examination Assessments (NEA) must cover the procedures for planning and managing these and managing the associated risks, and must define staff roles and responsibilities.
You will also need a GCSE controlled assessment policy (based on the same criteria as required for the NEA) if you are engaged in legacy GCSE qualifications which contain this type of assessment.
A Disability Policy, specifically for examinations, must show your centre’s compliance with relevant legislation, including the Equality Act 2010. It should confirm how reasonable adjustments are made for disabled students, and that assessments in your centre are accessible to all students while protecting the integrity of the assessment. Accessibility refers to access to/from the exam room as well as the assessment itself.
How do you devise these policies?
- Create/adapt a framework for each policy.
- Ask your exams officer to complete the sections which relate to their role.
- Forward each policy to the relevant member of staff for completion.
- Set a deadline for the completion of each policy.
- Ensure that all policies are “signed-off” by the head of centre and governors.
- Review all policies on an annual basis.
The important point to note is that although your exams officer may begin the process of developing some of these policies by creating frameworks and/or completing some sections of each policy, there are many areas which must be completed by other members of staff – not your exams officer.
For example, the production of the Disability Policy should be led by the SENCO. Likewise, the policy for emergency evacuation needs to be confirmed by the head of centre and the leadership team. Within this policy, issues such as how the exam room is evacuated when the fire alarm sounds must be confirmed by the head of centre and leadership team.
Some schools will produce these policies simply to appease the Ofqual and JCQ requirements, however relevant and accurate policies will help to keep your school “safe” with regard to examinations.
Not only will such documented information provide clarity and consistency for all staff in the conducting of exams/assessments and how to deal with emergencies, but if your exams officer is absent, or if you need to appoint a new exams officer, these are documents which can be used to ensure consistency and that your students are receiving the best possible service and support as they prepare for, and take, their examinations.
Regulations and guidance
- Procedures for emergency evacuation of the exam room: Section 18 of JCQ’s Instructions for Conducting Examinations: http://bit.ly/1IlLSZP
- Examination contingency plan/examinations policies: Section 5 of JCQ’s General Regulations for Approved Centres: http://bit.ly/2cNjqpq
- Internal Appeals Procedure: Section 5.8 of JCQ’s General Regulations for Approved Centres:
- Policy covering the management of GCSE controlled assessments: Section 1 of Instructions for Conducting Controlled Assessments (http://bit.ly/2eoiLgN); Section 5.8 of the General Regulations (http://bit.ly/2cNjqpq).
- Policy covering the management of Non-Examination Assessments: Section 1 of JCQ’s Instructions for Conducting Non-Examination Assessments: http://bit.ly/2fTVeWc
- Disability Policies: Page 4 of JCQ’s Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments: http://bit.ly/2dF2dAc