Supporting your exams officer

Written by: Jugjit Chima | Published:
Photo: MA Education

Despite the significance of the exams officer role within secondary schools, they often do not receive the support they should. Jugjit Chima offers some advice to school leaders

On the first page of the Joint Council for Qualifications’ (JCQ) Instructions for Conducting Examinations booklet, it states: “The head of centre is responsible to the awarding bodies for making sure all examinations/assessments are conducted to (the) instructions and the qualification specifications issued by the awarding bodies.”

In reality, it is highly unlikely that a headteacher or college principal will assume responsibility for the administering and conducting of exams.

However, this statement is placed within the guidance for a very specific reason: so that heads of centres appoint – and support – someone who assumes responsibility for examinations and, more importantly, is supported in their role to deliver exams that adhere to JCQ regulations.

The individual to whom this responsibility is devolved is very often the exams officer, and despite the significance of their role, these professionals are very often undervalued and offered inadequate support to fulfil their duties.

Schools do not merely appoint teaching, admin or finance staff and then expect them to undertake their duties without the necessary support, and the same should apply to exams office staff.

Below are a number of tips that act as a starting point for all school leaders and members of the senior leadership team in helping your exams officer.

Line manager support

Does your exams officer have a line manager? Do regular meetings take place? What is discussed at these meetings? Is your exams officer aware of their roles and responsibilities? For example, in the process of applying for Access Arrangements, are the exams officer and SENCO aware of what is expected of them?

Professional development

Are you supporting your exams officer with a professional development programme, or if you have recently appointed a new exams officer, is a new exams officer induction plan in place to support their introduction to the role and your school/college?

Do the exams officers have access to support from external experts, online support, and/or quality resources and training?

Rules and regulations

Ensure that all members of the senior leadership team are familiar with the JCQ regulations. Clearly define the roles and responsibilities associated with exams.

Not all exams administration or management – such as the process for Access Arrangements – is necessarily the responsibility of the exams officer. Your exams officer should have a job description that clearly highlights their role and responsibilities.

JCQ inspections

Is the senior leadership team aware of the JCQ inspection that usually takes place in each exams centre every year? Are there any areas in need of improvement? If the JCQ inspection has been successful, has the exams officer been commended for their work in achieving this status?

Exam policies

The senior leadership team must ensure that statutory exam policies are in place. Does the leadership team have access to information about the exams policies that are required by JCQ and Ofqual?

Heads of department

Does the exams officer have access to staff who will provide them with key information around exam entries, amendments or withdrawals?

If this is the role of the heads of department, does the exams officer have a “meeting slot” at the start of each departmental meeting to request/disseminate information?

NQTs

As part of the induction for NQTs, are they made aware of the main issues surrounding exams administration and management, and their role within this as teaching staff?

Students

How familiar are students with the requirements of external exams by the time they reach the summer of year 11? Have previous years’, or mock, exams been used to help replicate external exam conditions and familiarise students with “exam room etiquette”? Are assemblies or classroom sessions utilised to reinforce expectations?

Parents

How do you involve parents in supporting the exams process? For example, are parents clear over the expectations of their children within the exam room? Are they aware of malpractice and how this has to be dealt with? Do they know what happens if their child arrives late or misses an exam? Are they aware of the results and enquiries about results process?

Conclusion

The above is not a definitive guide, but it is a good start for all schools to ensure that they are supporting their exams officer and are also adhering to JCQ rules and regulations, which are in place to give students the best possible chance to achieve exams success.

  • 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

lnstructions for Conducting Examinations, JCQ: www.jcq.org.uk/exams-office/ice---instructions-for-conducting-examinations


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