This month’s blog is written by Jugjit Chima of The Exams Office who looks at the key tasks associated with the Exams Officer role at the start of the academic year…
In with the new academic year, but still with unfinished tasks from last year…
September signals the start of another academic year in centres up and down the country. However, for Exams Officer, September is a month in which they are still engaged in activity from the last academic year – focusing upon post-results tasks from the summer exams series – as well as planning for the new academic year.
To emphasise the significance of the role, this month, Exams Officers may be dealing with some, or all, of the following:
- Summer 2018 exam series post-results tasks
- Information gathering & information sharing – internal and external
- Identifying key dates for the 2018/19 academic year
- Confirming the access arrangements process, roles and responsibilities
- Reviewing exams policies, including the exam contingency plan
- Planning for the November 2018 exam series
- Planning for internal and mock exams
Post-results tasks associated with the summer 2018 exam series may include dealing with any post-results services requests, any associated administration arising from the issue of results and checking that any copies of scripts ordered to support decisions about reviews of marking have been received. If your role also involves data analysis, then you also have to undertake tasks relating to results reporting and analysis.
One of the key planning tasks for the new academic year (if not already undertaken at the end of the summer term) is to gather information about qualifications being delivered in your centre during 2018/19. Exams Officers should compile a composite summary of all these qualifications, when they will be examined/assessed and an estimate of the number of candidates to be entered/registered. This information gathering exercise will help to provide early information, such as intention to enter, intention to offer, estimated (and/or preliminary) entries etc. to awarding bodies, where these may be required. In addition to gathering information from within your centre, Exams Officers will also need to consult awarding body administrative guides to confirm the process to submit early information, estimated entries and subsequently final entries. This task should be complemented with identifying the key dates and deadlines that relate to the qualifications delivered in your centre and adding these into your annual exams plan also identifying internal deadlines to ensure you can effectively meet external deadlines.
Even at this early stage of the new academic year, Exams Officers should ensure that a system is in place to log confidential materials received at the initial point of delivery in the centre to the point when these are issued to the exams officer. There should also be a system in place to record the receipt, checking, secure movement and secure storage of confidential exam materials.
Exams Officers will also need to check JCQ and awarding body websites in September for updated information that is not provided in hard copy, and that they have usernames and passwords to access relevant awarding body secure extranet sites, ensuring that relevant centre staff have any required user accounts with appropriate access rights.
Every Exams Officer should confirm their understanding of any changes to regulations, guidance or instructions for 2018/19 which impact upon their role, or to external processes, deadlines etc. Any changes should be highlighted to their line manager or other relevant centre staff. Exams Officers should also provide/signpost relevant centre staff to JCQ publications that have been updated, perhaps creating a checklist of publications that need to be signposted. A detailed summary of the JCQ changes can be acquired by attending a training event delivered by Exams Training.
Regarding access arrangements, Exams Officers should liaise with their SENCo or equivalent member of staff who carries out this role in their centre to start to consider access arrangement tasks for 2018/19, clarifying roles within the access arrangements process including who is responsible for doing what, when etc., confirming understanding of any relevant changes for 2018/19 to JCQ Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments regulations that may impact on administrative processes, candidates etc. Exams Officers should also ensure that where relevant to their role, that they are familiar with using Access Arrangements Online (AAO) including ordering modified papers.
If exams are taking place during the November 2018 exams series, then as an Exams Officer you will need to confirm if any entries need to be made, and note/meet the key dates and deadlines associated with this exam series and undertake relevant tasks such as downloading basedata, ordering modified papers, preparing to submit final entries, applying through the JCQ’s newly launched Centre Admin Portal (CAP) for centre consortium arrangements for centre-assessed work (including Spoken Language Endorsements, GCSE English Language), for transferred candidate arrangements and alternative site arrangements where any of these arrangements might be relevant to your centre.
Another key task which should be completed at this time of year is the reviewing of exam-related policies. These should be updated to reflect any changes in regulations, processes and roles and responsibilities.
Finally, Exams Officers should confirm their role in any internal/mock examinations, identifying when internal exams will take place and their role in this activity, establishing if internal exams will be conducted under external exam conditions.
Depending on the qualifications undertaken in your centre there may be additional tasks to those listed above which make this a very busy time of year…and to think that in some centres, the Exams Officer role has part-time status…