March 2021 – The importance of developing your skills


This month’s blog is written by Lisa Longstaff, exams officer at Dunottar School, who considers the importance of developing your skills as part of your professional development.


Congratulations on getting your entries in, always such a big relief even if there are bound to be amendments for all of us at some point I expect! So, what happens now? As I write this, I have just heard that schools and colleges will reopen on 8 March….so, hopefully, we are now seeing the beginnings of a return to some form of normality within the education sector after a very difficult 12 months for students and staff alike.


I have picked a very difficult time to write this blog, as I have also just learnt of the outcomes of the DfE/Ofqual consultations regarding the decisions on how GCSE, AS and A level grades will be determined and alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021. There is a lot of information for centres and exams officers to consider, so I am very pleased (and relieved!) that The Exams Office has produced a detailed summary of the decisions which have been confirmed.


Last month, The Exams Office published a blog which detailed the importance of keeping invigilators updated so that they did not have a gap in their knowledge of JCQ regulation changes. This made me consider the importance of exams officers also updating their knowledge and skills – particularly during this period when, understandably, the main focus seems to be on acquiring information to deal with the immediate issues caused by the pandemic.


As the exams officer role focuses upon completing key tasks to deadline and following set processes, it can be all too easy to become complacent when it comes to professional development, and solely focus upon the task at hand. It is important that exams officers not only look for opportunities to consolidate their knowledge (of regulations and processes), but also build upon and further develop their skills and understanding, so that you can continue in your roles feeling as confident as possible and, in the current situation, prepared for what the coming months may bring.


As an exams officer I feel fortunate that I have The Exams Office to turn to as my first port of call for most of my support and training requirements to perform my role. Whilst The Exams Office will continue to respond promptly to any government, regulator, JCQ and awarding body announcements/changes to ensure that we are kept informed and supported in our everyday role, I am looking forward to the upcoming launch of the National Association of Exams Officers (NAEO) through which I hope to acquire professional development and an opportunity to further develop my skills.


With regard to this summer’s awarding, I expect that like last year the awarding bodies will hold targeted online learning events for the submission process in the coming months and offer training updates and videos throughout the year (some of these are shown on links below – it is worthwhile checking that you are receiving the regularly emailed updates that will inform you of these opportunities). I particularly value the OCR network meetings as a unique forum for discussion and learning, not just from the presenter but also from other exams officers as we share ideas and best practice.


As the last 12 months have confirmed, possessing adequate IT skills are essential to the exams officer role, so developing these is imperative and should be addressed when considering professional development needs. I have struggled when using Excel and have therefore looked to improve in this area in recent years. As the use of spreadsheets is pivotal to our role, I have also asked colleagues who are proficient in this area to help me in improving my Excel skills as well as utilising free online courses and support videos.


Other ways in which I have developed my skills in recent years include the setting up a LinkedIn profile. Not only is this utilised by many exams officers, but awarding bodies also use this forum to disseminate information. LinkedIn also offer free places at their online events.


There are also several other organisations offering online events including Technology, Entertainment and Development (TED) Conferences videos on topics such as ‘What does it take to build confidence’, to The Open University which has some very useful free courses in a vast range of areas, both to support you in your role, or in an areas of personal interest such as learning a language, or as I did last summer, an introductory level Money and Business course. This took 12 hours to complete over a couple of weeks and has helped me greatly to manage my personal finances. I must also admit that I have also enrolled for a beginners’ French food and drink course for when I am eventually able to take a much-needed holiday…which after the last 12 months, we all deserve and are very much looking forward to!



Useful links:

2020/21 Exams blog archive

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.