CEO Message - March 2023: Five actions to take to minimise the impact of a lack of invigilators this summer

During the first two weeks of February, the NAEO conducted a survey (via an exams officer private group on social media) to ascertain the situation within centres over the number of invigilators they would have for the forthcoming summer series, and whether they would experience a shortage of invigilators. The results were as follows:

At this time, do you have/expect to have enough competent, fully trained invigilators for the summer exam series?

  • Total responses - 875
  • Yes - 25% (215)
  • No - 75% (660)

On 6 February, a second question was asked to identify the reason(s) for the lack/shortage of invigilators:

For those who indicated an expected shortage of invigilators, would you agree that the reason for this shortage is due to access arrangements (e.g. an increased number of readers/scribes, demand for separate rooming, teaching assistants not being used etc.)

  • Total responses - 615
  • Yes - 81% (500)
  • No - 19% (115) - e.g. A-level exam clashes, Lack of applicants, Lack of money etc

As experienced during the 2021/2022 academic year, it seems very likely that in many centres there will be a lack of invigilators during the summer 2023 exam series. However, and quite rightly, JCQ has strengthened the regulations relating to the training of invigilators, so additional time is required to ensure that:

A training session on these [Instructions for conducting examinations] regulations must be held for any new invigilators and those facilitating an access arrangement for a candidate under examination conditions.

An annual update meeting must be held for the existing invigilation team so that they are aware of any changes.

Centres must ensure that the testing of invigilators’ competence and their understanding of these regulations is rigorous. This must also extend to those facilitating an access arrangement.

The NAEO encourages all centres to take the following steps to minimise the impact of a lack of invigilators within their centre ahead of this summer’s exam series:

  1. Final recruitment push

Undertake a recruitment push in the coming weeks, which, if successful, will still allow enough time to train those appointed.

Utilise the following to attract applicants:

  • Centre website
  • Centre newsletters and other communication channels with parents/carers and the local community
  • Local groups (e.g. parent/toddler, community support)
  • Advertisements in local shops, libraries, community centres, places of worship, etc.
  • Local newspaper (many offer free advertisements)
  • The Exams Office/NAEO Exams Recruitment and Vacancy Map
  1. Analyse each exam day

Undertake an analysis of each exam day to identify if/where a lack of invigilators is apparent.

If this is a situation which exists on specific days, identify the reason(s) for this – for example, this may be due to the number of examinations taking place. In such cases, consider rooming options which may reduce the number of invigilators required, or even consider (in exceptional circumstances and in accordance with the security and supervision requirements of Instructions for conducting examinations) ‘splitting’ the cohort so, for example, half of all candidates sit the examination whilst the other half are supervised until they can take the examination later during the same session. For further information, see sections 7.2 & 7.5 of Instructions for conducting examinations.

However, if the lack of invigilators is due to reasons which will exist throughout the exam series, such as an increased number of rooms/facilitators required for access arrangements candidates, or meeting parental requests for separate rooming due to exam anxiety, then this will need to be highlighted with the SENCo and SLT/head of centre.

  1. Internal staff (part-time, support staff etc.)

Identify internal staff who could be utilised to invigilate. This could include support staff, and those employed on part-time contracts. It is not recommended that the exams officer approaches these staff members to act as invigilators (due to possible contractual arrangements), but that these colleagues are presented as an option when meeting with line managers/SLT/heads of centres.

  1. Inform/meet with your line manager/head of centre

Arrange a meeting with your line manager (who should be a member of the senior leadership team) or head of centre, and highlight the current issue.

You should explain the actions taken to date, the reason why a shortage of invigilators exists (is this due to a lack of applicants/appointees, or an increased number of invigilators required to act as facilitators of access arrangements, or parental/teacher requests for separate rooming for particular students), and ask for their suggested solutions.

If a decision is made to use internal staff as invigilators, then request that this is announced by SLT/head of centre to staff and the requirement that they will be trained in line with JCQ regulations.

  1. Be prepared to train teaching staff

Last year, many centres utilised teaching staff to fill the void caused by a lack of invigilators. Understandably, the majority of teaching staff will not want to act as an invigilator, let alone have to undertake a training session/annual update meeting ahead of the exam series. However, this is exactly what they will have to undertake if they are to invigilate during the summer exams series.

Exams officers should be prepared for this situation. They should be clear over the subject(s) which each member of staff teaches (or has an expertise in) and ensure that they do not invigilate in that subject(s). Exams officers should also start to plan a training programme which will meet JCQ requirements, but one which is concise and engaging to ensure that those taking part are fully engaged with the content. To support this, exams officers many also want to consider utilising The Exam Office online training and assessment modules to ensure that ‘the testing of invigilators’….understanding of [the Instructions for conducting examinations] regulations is rigorous.’.

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