October 2019 – As the work from one exam series ends, another starts…

 

Now that the deadlines for Summer 2019 enquiries about results and access to scripts have passed, I hope that you have time to take a breath and consider what might appear next on your ‘To do lists’.

 

We can expect the very last job for the summer 2019 series this month – receiving and checking the exam certificates from the summer.  Please note AQA have stated that their deadline is 7 November, so this job might spill over into November.

Call me strange, but I quite liked the break from the usual multi-tasking exams officer lifestyle of planning and thinking of a number of different tasks, regularly interrupted by teaching colleagues and students to spend some time checking certificates against results spreadsheets.  New exams officers please be aware that if a student has had a late change of grade due to a review of marking or moderation the certificate you receive might not be accurate.  You will need to send the incorrect certificate back to the relevant exam board (by recorded delivery) before they will issue a replacement certificate, so make sure that you do this, even if you have not had a chance to check every certificate.  I usually take a photocopy of the certificate before I post it back, amend the copy by hand and put it in with the student’s other certificates until the replacement arrives so that there is some sort of marker to the student if a replacement has not arrived by the school’s presentation evening event.

As well as checking certificates, you may need to think about creating labels for envelopes or record of achievement folders.  In my centre we use A4 envelopes; I also create a cover sheet for each set of certificates emphasising the value of the enclosed certificates, the probable cost of replacements, and that if students lost certificates it would be their responsibility to contact exam boards for replacements.

JCQ’s General Regulations (Section 5.14) states that we must distribute certificates to all students without delay (we are not able to withhold them due to disputes regarding unpaid fees).  We must also keep records of certificates issued, so it might be a good idea to prepare a list of students ready for them to sign and date when they collect their results.

Centres will have a variety of methods for distributing certificates:  by post (but it must be via a secure, trackable method, for example recorded delivery, by a presentation/celebration evening when all students are invited to attend, by being informed of a set time when they can be collected from school, or in my experience via a combination of methods.  You might need to plan and arrange such an event, or it might be that other colleagues (SLT or Head of Year) might plan the event, with your assistance.

Previously, I have heard anecdotal evidence that some exams officers have felt excluded from formal presentation events – they had not been officially invited.  My advice would be that if you would like to attend the event then be bold and tell the organiser.  Many years ago, when I started as an exams officer, my SLT felt that they could not expect me to attend an event out of school hours, but I just voluntarily attended and sat with other staff in the audience.  Over the years they realised I wanted to attend and I ended up checking off students as they arrived.  I felt that attending the event finished off the exam series properly.

The General Regulations also state that we can destroy certificates after a year, but a record of such destruction must be retained for four years.  I always try to keep certificates for as long as I have room to store them as you would be surprised at the number of students who manage to get through university without their certificates but then need to produce them for their first job and contacting me a panic 3 or 4 years later.  It is a nice feeling to be able to say” Yes, here they are” … and to save that person a significant amount of money to replace these precious pieces of paper.

It is also at this time of year that exams officers must ensure that they have read the up-dated JCQ documents for 2019-2020.  The Instructions for conducting examinations (ICE) and General Regulations, as well as the Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments booklet where it impacts upon the exams officer role.  Please note that these documents will not be sent out in hard copy format, so you will need to print them out yourself, or read them on-screen.  I believe that TEO will have printed copies of the ICE book available for use at their Autumn training events.  It is our job to know what is contained in ICE and the General Regulations, and although the Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments booklet is for the attention of SENDCOs and SLT, it is useful for exams officers to have an overview of what this contains too as some aspects – such as the invigilation of access arrangements – may impact upon the exams officer role.

JCQ are also planning to make an editable version of ICE, General Regulations, the Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments booklet, and information about the Special Consideration process available on-line via the Centre Admin Portal (CAP), the secure website available via any of the exam board secure areas (eg eAQA).  Using this tool you will be able to produce a redacted version of the documents for your invigilator team, or Head of centre/SLT.  As part of the National Centre Number Register annual update your Head of Centre will need to confirm their adherence to ICE and the General Regulations, so they will need to know what they contain!

Even though it is very early in the academic year, many exams officers will already be creating a timetable for next summer’s exams, and a personalised key dates calendar so that they are in a good position to inform staff, students and parents of dates for the coming academic year.

Hopefully you have already, or will be in the process of collecting information about the qualifications your teachers will  be following this year and the approximate numbers of student taking these qualifications, The Exams Office provide a useful information gathering form template that you could  use to help with this exercise.  You could then collate all the information you have gathered using the annual qualifications plan template.  Once you have gathered all this information you can create a ‘master exam timetable’ for the coming exam series.

Also on the The Exams Office website, you will find their Exams Timetable tool and Key Dates Calendar tool, and until the end of the 2019 they are available to everyone.  These tools will help you quickly and easily create exam timetables for both the November 2019 and Summer 2020 exam series, and a calendar of key dates and deadlines.  These documents will prove invaluable during the year both to surprise and impress your SLT and teaching colleagues with your instant access to dates, but the exam timetable could also be made available to students and parents, possibly via the school website, to assist them in planning future holidays.  Don’t forget that the JCQ contingency day for 2020 is Wednesday 24 June, so make sure that parents and students are aware that if exams are postponed due to a national disruption they could be rescheduled up to and including 24 June and students will need to be available.

October might also be a good time of year to review last year’s exams planning and execution and what could be improved upon.  The Exams Office have detailed review planning documents available on their website to assist you in gathering information for discussion with your line manager.  Following on from the JCQ’s Independent Malpractice Commission report you might find that SLT are taking a keener interest in exams from now on.

If you still have time during October it might be a good time to review your exams policies using the templates available on The Exams Office website.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jean Passmore for her hard work creating and reviewing the policy templates, she has made a hard job much easier for us all.

I hope that you have booked your place on The Exams Office’s training for either experienced or new exams officers.  I am very much looking forward to catching up with my colleagues in Leeds on 16 October and gaining new information for the coming year.

One final question. Even though I retired as a full-time exams officer in February (but have continued to run invigilator training events and worked as an invigilator over the summer), why am I now having dreams about exams?   You know, the ones where the exam hall does not have enough desks and none of the candidates are following the regulations!!  It really does get into your blood…!

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