July 2020 – Time for reflection…before preparing for the challenges which lie ahead…

 

This month’s blog is written by Alexis Wragg, exams officer at Rugby School, who gives an insight to her role in recent weeks and the challenges which lie ahead in the summer 2020 awarding process.

 

A little time to reflect on the events of the past few months and consider the tasks ahead…

 

Over the last few weeks, I have listened to teachers debate and evaluate student performance, agonising over every decision to ensure the grade they award is a fair reflection of each candidate’s performance. They have made some of the hardest decisions of their lives and like us all, I am sure they wish that none of this had happened. As I sit writing this blog on the situation we have found ourselves in over the last four months, I can reflect on the unprecedented events we as exams officers have faced, I think as a profession we have risen to the situation and have adapted to every new challenge presented to us. Submitting all the grades for my centre was a responsibility that I have never felt before in this role. Looking forward to August, instead of downloading the grades and being excited for the students who have worked so hard, I will be comparing them to see if they have been amended by the exam boards. I think our Senior Leaders will be even more interested in these grades than in any previous year.

 

The last few months have been the steepest learning curve I have been on since starting in my Exams Officer role eight years ago. We ran our Year 10 and Year 12 mock exams remotely in April and June, so my assistant and I became quickly familiar with the assignment aspect of ‘Teams’. Luckily, we were proficient after the first set of exams, as the Year 12 sessions ran during the first week of June.

 

I am sure that in recent weeks many exams officers have found that their senior leadership teams has turned to them more than ever to answer their questions (most of which we probably don’t know the answers to!) but as we speak to the many customer service advisors from all boards, we piece together the answers for them despite the ever changing landscape. Who would have thought in February, as I submitted my entries, I would have read every Ofqual publication from March onwards?!

 

The exam boards have clearly worked tirelessly to ensure the process for us is as easy as possible. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Friday OCR catch up meetings with Paul and his team. My four-year-old wondered where his voice was coming from, and each time asked, “can they hear us?”. All the awarding bodies have proved effective at delivering the information when we needed it. Online webinars will surely become a larger part of our future from now on and while I am now exhausted from the experience and relieved it has been completed, I am thoroughly grateful to all of them for making it a smooth process.

 

So, what now? Probably like you, at the start of lockdown, instead of finalising my summer exam series plans, I updated some of my policies, and I will return to them. I have already added new points to my contingency policy based on the current events. However, another eye over them will not hurt, especially as my centre starts the International Baccalaureate this September and I need to make sure I am up to speed with their exam procedures.

 

More importantly though I must make sure a process/policy is in place to support the arrangements for appeals. Ofqual guidance on this currently states that:

  • A student who had evidence of bias or discrimination should raise this with their centre and could also pass such evidence on to the exam board who could investigate for potential malpractice
  • There must be a procedure in place which allows students to appeal the centre’s decision not to appeal to an exam board
  • Students may also ask their centre to check whether they made an error when submitting information to an exam board
  • A centre can appeal to an exam board if it believes an exam board made a mistake when calculating, assigning or communicating a grade.

 

Hopefully, Ofqual will have announced more information on the above by the end of June, so we have a clearer picture of what we need to do ahead of the GCE and GCSE results days.

 

Things we may need to think about are:

  • The process students will need to follow if they feel they have grounds to appeal/complain
  • Will we need to devise a new ‘form’ for the students to complete if they want to appeal or complain?
  • How will this ‘form’ look?
  • What information will we need to present to students?
  • How much will any appeal cost?
  • Who is going to pay for an appeal?

 

My attention must also turn to my invigilators who have been furloughed for the last few months. Whilst keeping in touch with a monthly email has been effective, I think something more personal is now needed. At the end of the summer season we usually all go out for a nice pub lunch, but now I think a thank you card for their work prior to the summer will show them just how much I appreciate them.

 

Of course, we all need to consider the implications of the autumn series, the consultation on an additional GCSE, AS and A level exam series finished on 8th June. Hopefully we will learn of the outcomes in the coming weeks and what will be expected of us and when we can go back to using our planning skills to calculate how we can fit our students into a gym which the PE department is not used to giving up at that time of year.

 

Looking forward to results days, whilst in many regards these will run as usual, and results will come in via EDI, the whole day will have a quite different feel to it. In one sense I am lucky, our students access their results remotely, so I will not need to arrange social distancing for results collection, but for many July will entail detailed planning to ensure government guidelines are adhered to. As Marcia Woods wrote about in the June Blog, there are so many things to think about.

 

What a shame it will be if our students cannot give each other a hug when they open their envelopes.

 

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The Exams Office takes no responsibility for any outcomes in centres as a result of the information provided on our website or within our documentation. It is the responsibility of centres to apply this information as they deem necessary within their own centre. You should always contact/refer to the relevant awarding body for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding their qualifications.