Introduction

The work and subsequent recommendations set out in the Report of the Independent Commission for Examinations Malpractice (September 2019) highlighted the critical role examinations officers (EOs) have in reducing malpractice and upholding the rigour of the examinations administration system.

Section 11 of the Report, titled Examinations Officers: a critical role in a successful system, sets out eight recommendations which can be summarised as follows:

  1. The importance of effective line management and support for exams officers
  2. That training for exams officers should be subject to a standardised quality assurance system
  3. A non-mandatory professional qualification should be made available for exams officers
  4. Initial teacher training courses should include material on good practice in the conduct of examinations
  5. A retrospective report on the administration of each examination season should be produced
  6. JCQ regulations should be set out on an easily searchable interactive website, as well as being available in hard-copy booklets
  7. Exam centres should provide exams officers with annual appraisals, linked to suitable training opportunities (see point 2)
  8. Better contingency planning is needed across all exam centre

Having over half of the exam centres in England as its members, and as a key contributor to the work carried out by the Commission, The Exams Office is uniquely and ideally placed to take a number of these recommendations forward.

In 2014, The Exams Office was established with a clear objective in mind – to provide practical support for exam centres. In practical terms, this work is led by the exams officer, so its support focussed primarily on helping them successfully carry out their roles within exam centres. More recently, the scope of the support provided by The Exams Office has expanded to encompass a wider range of roles within the exam centre setting, including heads of centres, senior leaders and invigilators. However, the objective has remained – to provide practical support for exam centres.

Feedback received by The Exams Office, backed up by the findings of the Commission, suggests that a key challenge faced by the exams sector is how the professional status and personal and professional learning and development needs of exams officers can be recognised and developed. Previously, other organisations had included this function within their remit, but as of now, this crucial role is not being taken forward by any single individual or group of individuals.

Other professional disciplines across the education sector and beyond have some form of representative organisation which champions their members status, needs and, perhaps more importantly, encourages and fosters a professional identity and sense of pride in the work its members carry out. The Exams Office recognised that action was needed and that it was well-placed to lead on it.


Consultation

In March 2020, The Exams Office launched a consultation on the proposed formation of a professional body for exams officers – the National Association of Examinations Officers (NAEO).

Views were sought on a range of areas, including:

  • Support for the establishment of such an organisation
  • Scope and range of activities to be carried out
  • Priorities and key stakeholders
  • Likely pricing for membership

In addition to consulting with its members, The Exams Office sought the views of Ofqual, the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), the Department for Education (DfE) and a number of the main awarding bodies (ABs). Following the two-month long consultation period, the recommendations and next steps are summarised as below.


Recommendations and next steps

Recommendation 1
A new organisation called the National Association of Examinations Officers (NAEO) should be formed

Next step(s)

  • The NAEO will be registered with the Charity Commission and will operate as a not-for-profit registered company with charitable status
  • Consideration to be given to governance structures, staffing and resourcing
  • Subject to ongoing consultation, it is proposed that the NAEO will formally launch in January 2021

Recommendation 2
The scope and member benefits of the NAEO should include:

  • Representing exams officers amongst stakeholders at national level
  • Promoting and making available learning and development opportunities for those engaged in the administration and conducting of examinations
  • Collaborating with stakeholders to support good practice – for example, working with organisations which represent senior leaders/heads of centre to highlight their role and responsibilities
  • Providing employment/legal advice and HR guidance for members
  • Seeking to launch a subsidiary body which sets professional standards for exams officers
  • Devising and making available an industry-standard exams officer accreditation to be attempted annually
  • Hosting a summer conference focusing on good practice and the skills required to undertake the exams officer role and host an awards evening to celebrate achievement, dedication, long service etc. amongst the exams officer community
  • Creating an effective and robust network structure amongst the exams officer community
  • Endorsing/supporting training and resources offered by third parties

Next step(s)

  • Consult with industry experts about the most effective and suitable way(s) of providing employment/legal advice and HR guidance for member
  • Consult with exams officers, JCQ, Ofqual, and the major ABs about launching a subsidiary body which focusses on setting professional standards for exams officers
  • Consult with exams officers, JCQ, Ofqual, and the major ABs about launching a subsidiary body which quality-assures training and resources offered by third parties

Recommendation 3
Annual costs for membership of the NAEO should be set at between £50 and £60

Next step(s)

  • Work to be undertaken to establish the running costs for the NAEO, likely revenue generated by different volumes of membership and financial modelling around the likely shortfall in funding to be met by The Exams Office

NB: Any financial contributions made by The Exams Office will be funded by profits made through Exams Training and TEO Education, not subscription income from centre support memberships.

Recommendation 4
Engagement, consultation, communication and messaging to continue whilst strategic and operational detail is finalised

Next step(s)

  • Engagement and consultation regarding the scope, aims and objectives of the NAEO to continue with the following key stakeholders:
    • JCQ
    • Ofqual
    • ABs
    • DfE
    • Organisations representing senior leaders (e.g. ASCL, NAHT etc.)
    • Other representative organisations (e.g. AoC)
    • Local authorities
    • Organisations representing SENCOs
    • Recruitment/employment agencies
    • Cambridge Assessment International Education
  • The Exams Office should continue to engage with and seek views from exams officer in member centres and beyond to define the scope, aims and objectives of the NAEO

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. From what date will membership to the NAEO become available?

It is proposed that the NAEO will formally launch in January 2021. Timescales are subject to further consultation and are also bound by some practical and operational matters currently being affected by knock-on effects of the Covid-19 restrictions in place. Members of The Exams Office will be kept updated about all developments regarding the establishment of the NAEO through regular messaging. Additionally, this page (https://www.theexamsoffice.org/naeo/) will also be regularly updated with latest news.

2. How do I join the NAEO?

Once launched, joining the NAEO will be a straightforward process all handled through the NAEO website. The site will ask for the details it requires to register your membership and it will also process the membership fees payable at the point of becoming a member of the NAEO. The website is currently in development but members of The Exams Office will be kept updated through regular messaging and this page (https://www.theexamsoffice.org/naeo/) will also be updated with latest news.

3. What benefits will the NAEO offer to its members?

On behalf of its members, the NAEO will:

  • Ensure that the exams officer community is represented in discussions and decision making at national level
  • Devise and provide learning and development opportunities, and endorse/support training and resources offered by third parties
  • Collaborate with stakeholders to raise awareness of the work carried out by exams officers
  • Support and recognise good practice and excellence in role
  • Provide free access to employment/legal advice and HR guidance
  • Support the establishment of professional standards for exams officers
  • Provide free access to an industry-standard exams officer qualification
  • Provide free attendance at a summer conference and awards evening
  • Create an effective and robust network structure amongst the exams officer community

4. Will the NAEO replace The Exams Office or take forward any of the member benefits currently offered to centres with membership to The Exams Office?

The Exams Office will not be replaced or disbanded. The two organisations will fulfil very different, but equally significant, roles in supporting the exams system and those who manage and administer exams within centres. Their aims and objectives will have a different focus, but there will be a strong collaboration and positive working relationship.

The Exams Office was set up to support centres, whereas the NAEO will have a core aim of supporting exams officers – both professionally and personally. It will work with key stakeholders to achieve improvements and change for members who are managing and administering examinations and assessments within centres. As the membership to the NAEO will belong to the individual, all activity will focus directly upon the needs of its members.

5. Will or should membership to the NAEO replace my current union membership?

This should be a personal decision based on what you feel is important to you, your professional identity and the benefits you wish to access.

Some of the member benefits offered by the NAEO, such as a national representation, a focus on the individual rather than the employer and personal and professional development, may mirror those offered by a union, however others will not – e.g. political affiliation, a more generic workforce focus etc.

6. How will the NAEO be structured, governed and operate?

The NAEO has been registered with Companies House (company number 12415057) as a ‘Private Limited Company by guarantee without share capital use of ‘Limited’ exemption’. The NAEO will also be registered with the Charity Commission in its capacity of a company ran as ‘not for profit’. The company directors are Jugjit Chima, Nicholas Marr and Jean Passmore.

A steering group will be set up to oversee the corporate governance of the NAEO, inform strategic decision making and steer activity and the scope of member benefits.

7. How should I register my interest for volunteering and/or supporting the work of the NAEO, should opportunities arise?

Whilst the NAEO website and associated contact channels are currently under development, those wishing to register their interest to volunteer and/or support the work of the NAEO should, in the first instance, email contact@theexamsoffice.com.

A register of interest will be kept and individuals contacted, should opportunities arise.