December 2020 – Christmas may be in sight, but this isn’t a time when exams officers ‘wind down’…
This month’s blog is written by Alexis Wragg, exams officer at Rugby School, who considers the tasks which exams officers are undertaking at this time of year.
As I suspected when the 2020/2021 academic year started, nothing has been normal or straightforward this term. My ‘metre-rule’ has been used more than ever, from working out how I socially distance my autumn series candidates to keeping my Year 12 students apart when completing baseline testing. This term has been a challenge, and we have all been kept on our toes, but now we can start to look forward to the Christmas holidays and a well-earned break.
But, before we get there, there are still plenty of jobs which need to be completed so I must turn my attention to my immediate priorities.
Certificates from the summer have now arrived and they need to be dispatched. This year it is vital that they are checked carefully to ensure all the grades are correct. We send ours recorded delivery, but still like to know they have safely arrived with the students. To confirm this, we will be sending students an electronic form which they can complete to say they have received them and e mail back to us. A few years ago, we took the plunge and bought certificate folders to place the certificates in. It looks so much smarter, and more professional, than just having them in an envelope.
A level and CAIE Pre-U restricted results release day is Wednesday 16th December. This is a day when I will be printing the statements of results and getting them ready to post the following morning. I will also download any broadsheets and grade breakdowns provided by the awarding bodies, so that I am fully prepared for any enquiries from the students on results day. Our results will be e mailed to students at 8am on Thursday 17th December, so I need to arrange with our IT services department to send out the email at the right time. As section 5.13 of the JCQ’s General Regulations for Approved Centres publication states that a senior member of staff must be available immediately after the publication of results, I have confirmed that my deputy head will be on hand to support students and answers any questions they may have.
Managing enquiries about results
Our Review of Results form was redesigned for the October & November exam series, and it is worth checking with the awarding bodies as their post results fees have been updated. If you are new to the role and engage with any CAIE qualifications, you should note that their key dates for post results are slightly different. In the first week of December we will send this to students with an explanation sheet on how to use the Review of Results form, and where to find our appeals policy should they need it. Exams officers should also note that OCR have produced a very useful post results flow diagram specifically for the autumn series.
Summer series exam entries
I don’t ask for summer entries from our Heads of Departments (HoDs) until January, but I start my preparation in December. I will print off class sets and produce an entry sheet which asks the HoDs to confirm the awarding body and syllabus code, as well as asking for any other information I might need to know, for example if they have changed units, or moved from postal moderation to online submission. I ask the HoDs to sign the class sets so I know they have checked them…to help them, last year, I designed a simple label which I stick on each list which just says ‘signature and date’ in red writing. They have worked brilliantly.
For the last two years I have completed a key dates sheet for our HoDs. With the same purpose as the awarding body versions, it allows our HoDs to see when I will ask for information from them and when I expect this to be submitted. I divide it in to black for an internal deadline and red for an external one, so they are aware of my deadlines and the pressure I may under to complete tasks to strict deadlines. A copy of this goes in with their entries information, just to remind them how important it is to return this data back to me on time.
Managing mock examinations
In January, the whole school is on an assessment week. While teachers are running most of the exams in class, we have decided to run Year 11 and Year 13 as official mocks. The things we need to think about are:
- Seating plans and making sure we have spaced our students according to the 1.25m rule whilst also adhering to the schools socially distancing policy. In a change from our normal way of working, we are going to give our students the same desk for the week, so I need to be planned to ensure all papers are in the right place at the right time.
- Following on from that, we are using more venues due to social distancing so I need to check the usual key components such as; does the room have a clock and a suitable whiteboard? Does work on the walls need covering? Where are students going to leave their valuables? And where are the closest toilets?
- Keeping my invigilators safe and having the correct PPE and risk assessment in place for them. Their ideas from the draft risk assessment I wrote and sent to them in September have been incorporated and I really feel like they are part of the process.
Training my invigilators
My next challenge is how do I train my invigilators effectively? Our October update meeting couldn’t be held, so I have had to employ a new strategy.
As one of my concerns is their varying levels of IT ability, a blended learning approach is going to be necessary. For some a Microsoft Teams meeting will be perfect and they will really enjoy seeing everyone and start to feel like part of the team again. I created an ‘Invigilator Team’ back in the summer hoping to introduce it slowly, knowing more tasks would need to be completed online this term. I like this way of working because I can upload information which they may require in to the files section, such as timesheets and timetables.
I have also created accounts for all my invigilators on The Exams Office Online Portal so they can complete some or all of the Training and Assessment modules, depending upon their experience. As I have no new invigilators, I will be asking all of my invigilators to complete the units relating to Regulation changes for experienced invigilators (Unit 3) and the Supporting and supervising access arrangement (Unit 4). The Online Portal allows me to keep track of who has completed these units and offer support where it may be needed. I will also be taking a look at the Invigilator Digital Accreditation to see if this is an alternative which I may use in 2021/22 to train/update my invigilators. However, for those who struggle with the IT, I will be sending them my Teams meeting power point on paper, with my notes and request they sign a declaration stating they have read and understood the training. I might even throw in a sneaky quiz to keep them on their toes.
2020 has been a very difficult year for us all, and I hope that we will be able to meet up sometime in the New Year or at some point in 2021…however, one thing I know which will remain the same in 2021 is that all of us will continue to play a key role in our schools/colleges.
Here’s wishing every one of my fellow exams officers a safe, peaceful and restful Christmas.
2020/21 Exams blog archive
- September – A little time to reflect on the events of the past few months and consider the tasks ahead (written by Marcia Woods, formerly exams officer at Brookfield Community School and currently an invigilator trainer for The Exams Office)
- October – Mental health challenges of returning to school and college (written be Geraldine Jozefiak, exams officer at HMP Norwich and the author of blog posts, ideas and news via her website https://www.geraldinejozefiak.com/blogoptin)
- November – A time for exams officers to stick to their plan (written by Lisa Longstaff, exams officer at Dunottar School)
- December – No time for exams officers to wind down (written by Alexis Wragg, exams officer at Rugby School)
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