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:
- The importance of effective line management and support for exams officers
- That training for exams officers should be subject to a standardised quality assurance system
- A non-mandatory professional qualification should be made available for exams officers
- Initial teacher training courses should include material on good practice in the conduct of examinations
- A retrospective report on the administration of each examination season should be produced
- JCQ regulations should be set out on an easily searchable interactive website, as well as being available in hard-copy booklets
- Exam centres should provide exams officers with annual appraisals, linked to suitable training opportunities (see point 2)
- Better contingency planning is needed across all exam centre
Having well 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 was uniquely and ideally placed to take a number of these recommendations forward.
" Critical role exams officers have "
The Exams Office was established in 2014 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.
" Professional status and personal and professional development "
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. The establishment of the NAEO is the next step in that journey.