April 2019


This month’s blog is written by Gemma Sadler, Assistant Principal (Data & Examinations)/Exams Officer at Shireland Collegiate Academy, Smethwick who considers the key tasks for Exams Officers at this time of year, and inducting a new Examinations Officer in her centre…


What an Exams Officer doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing…

I am currently in the process of inducting a new Exams Officer in my centre. I was appointed to an Assistant Principal role at the end of last academic year with the understanding that I would still strategically manage examinations and a new Exams Officer would be appointed to manage the day-to-day running of examinations. The ongoing issues of ‘red tape’ and financial restraints meant that the appointment was not made until December and my replacement started at the beginning of January. My successor is young and enthusiastic, but I am only starting to understand the magnitude of the task ahead in trying to impart all the knowledge I hold around the examinations processes and the idiosyncrasies of my centre.

The first thing I passed to my new recruit was The Exams Office Exams Officer Handbook 2018/19 and pointed out The Exams Office calendar hanging prominently on my office wall. I got her booked onto the new Exams Officer training provided by The Exams Office which she came back raving about and with a list of questions she wanted to clarify about our policies and procedures. Whilst I was getting bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of the role at this very busy time of year, the training gave her a holistic overview of the role during the spring and summer months as well as details of key tasks and how to complete these…so thanks Juggy, Ali and Nick Lait for the excellent training!

We are currently focussing our efforts on getting the planning completed for the summer season and top of our list is sorting out all the seating plans. I didn’t realise how many different things I considered when I was producing a single session’s seating plan until I tried to explain the process to someone else. Are there any students with Access Arrangements? Do I have any examinations which need to be in a separate room, such as a listening exam or an exam which requires computer access? Will all the students fit into the main examination room or do I need to deploy my ‘back up’ room? How are the students going to be arranged in the room – which exam finishes first, which students need specific seating? Does anyone have a clash that needs resolving? What is the clash? How can it be resolved? What did that candidate state was their preferred choice for their clash resolution when I spoke to them?

The Exams Officer role is one which requires us to constantly learn, change and adapt. I have had to deploy strategies that I have never considered previously due to the changing face of my candidates’ profile. The capacity of my main examination room has had to be increased by 40 seats, this was after spending an afternoon with my 1.25m rule measuring and re-measuring to check we were still meeting regulations. We have changed the location of our Access Arrangements room due to our new build not being ready until September which required a ‘courageous and frank conversation’ with the Social Sciences department and the members of staff who is being re-located! The appointment of a new SENCo has meant that Access Arrangements are now being looked at with a ‘fresh set of eyes’ resulting in significant changes in how Access Arrangements and managed and facilitated and a much more collaborative working relationship between myself and the SENCo which is fantastic.

I have recruited more invigilators to replace those who have acquired other roles, or who have moved on for other reasons. I am of course availing myself of all the resources provided by The Exams Office to undertake the training of my new and current invigilators. They will attend face-to-face training with myself and the Safeguarding Manager before completing The Exams Office’s online training and assessment modules to confirm they were actually paying attention!

The frustration of many Exam Officers is that no-one else in their centre truly understands the magnitude of the job and I often hark back to when I started. Coming from a teaching role I thought I understood the exams process and the work required but after having now undertaken the role I realise that I had little idea. Please do not underestimate what any of you as Exams Officers contribute on a daily basis to your centre and how vital you are in a student’s journey through their education. It is the planning and preparation currently being undertaken by Exams Officers which will lead to a successful exam series for candidates, staff and parents. The old adage of ‘failing to plan is definitely planning to fail’ is never more true than it is for Exams Officers.

Have a look at Ofqual blogs including:

(Published 28/03/2019) Helping exams officers to run a successful summer exam series

Exams blog archive

  • September 2018 (written by Jugjit Chima, The Exams Office)
  • October 2018 (written by Geraldine Jozefiak, Examinations Officer at HMP Norwich)
  • November 2018 (written by Gemma Sadler, Assistant Principal (Data & Examinations)/Examinations Officer at Shirelands Collegiate Academy, Smethwick)
  • December 2018 (written by Lisa Longstaff, Examinations Officer at Dunottar School, Reigate)
  • January 2019 (written by Marcia Woods, Examinations Officer at Brookfield Community School, Chesterfield)
  • February 2019 (written by Lisa Longstaff, Examinations Officer at Dunottar School, Reigate)
  • March 2019 (written by Geraldine Jozefiak, Examinations Officer at HMP Norwich), including Mindfulness Workshops and Presentations and Mindfulness Student Workshop flyer
  • April 2019 (written by Gemma Sadler, Assistant Principal (Data & Examinations)/Examinations Officer at Shirelands Collegiate Academy, Smethwick)

All views and opinions expressed in Blogs are the authors own

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.