CEO Message - November 2023 : The importance of acquiring effective support and supervision from your line manager

In recent years, JCQ regulations have placed a greater emphasis on the role played by senior leaders in managing examinations and assessments within their centre – this includes managing, supporting and supervising their exams officer.

The senior leader(s) who has responsibility for examinations within their centre is required to provide the following assistance to their exams officer:

  • access to appropriate training and support in order to facilitate the effective delivery of examinations and assessments within the centre, and ensure compliance with the published JCQ regulations
  • ensuring sufficient time for the exams officer to perform their role and familiarise him/herself with relevant awarding body and JCQ documentation
  • line management and active supported from a member of the senior leadership team who has a good working knowledge of the examination system
  • providing effective support and supervision of the examinations officer to ensure that the integrity and security of examinations and assessments is maintained through an examination series

JCQ has clearly highlighted the role and responsibilities of the senior leader who has responsibility for examinations within a centre, and the NAEO encourages all exams officers to use these JCQ regulations to ensure that they are receiving the following support from their senior leader (who should also be acting as their line manager);

  1. Meetings

Exams officers should expect to meet on a regular basis with their senior leader/line manager.

New exams officers should expect to meet with their line manager on a weekly/fortnightly basis during the early weeks/months of their appointment to ensure that they are fully supported in their new role.

Experienced exams officers may decide to meet with their line manager on a monthly or half-termly basis.

During an exam series, short meetings should take place on a weekly basis to discuss any issues which may have occurred, or to review exam room incident logs to highlight/discuss/resolve incidents which have occurred in the exam room.

The Checklist for senior leaders/line managers encourages exams officers to meet with their line manager at the start and end of each stage of the exam cycle. This will enable both parties to highlight tasks which need to be completed, any potential issues, support which will be required from the line manager and to review that all actions have been completed, before moving onto the next stage of the exam cycle.

  1. Professional development

Exams officers must be proactive in requesting professional development for two reasons:

  • To ensure that they are aware of changes each academic year – this may require attendance at training events/conferences/network meetings etc.
  • To acquire/further develop the wide range of skills which are required to perform the role

The exams officer role cannot be performed effectively unless knowledge and understanding of the regulations is updated on an annual basis, and skills are developed to deal with a variety of situations and stakeholders.

  1. Appraisal

Exams officers must insist on annual appraisal. This is not only required to consider areas of personal and professional development, but also for an exams officer to highlight areas of strength, and those in need of improvement, within examination related processes and procedures. It also an opportunity to consider the role and responsibilities of the exams officers in light of changing JCQ regulations.

  • An appraisal system should be in place which includes:
  • A meeting at the start of the academic year which confirms targets and areas which will be considered within the appraisal process
  • Regular meetings should be held throughout the academic year to monitor progress, discuss issues and highlight actions which need to be taken to ensure that targets set at the initial meeting will be met
  • A final meeting which includes evidence and discussions to consider progress against targets, and areas of strength and those in need of improvement within the centre’s examination system
  1. Governance (roles/responsibilities/procedures/contingency)

The senior leader with responsibility for examinations should lead on the governance within the centre – this may require input from the exams officer who is the ‘expert’ within the centre for the management, administration and conducting of examinations.

Areas of governance include:

  • Confirming roles and responsibilities (e.g. the role of the SENCo in the management and delivery of access arrangements and the support offered by the exams officer)
  • Devising and implementing robust procedures
  • Ensuring that all relevant exams-related policies are in place
  • Ensuring all contingency/risk management measures in place

It is the role of the senior leader to ensure that the awarding body/bodies have confidence in the integrity of centre activities such as the delivery of qualifications and the conducting of examinations and assessments.

  1. Resolving issues

In the first instance, the exams officer should discuss all centre-related examination issues with their senior leader/line manager. External stakeholders may also provide assistance, but in the first instance, a discussion should take place at centre level.

There are two reasons why the senior leader/line manager should be the initial point of reference in the instance of resolving issues:

  • They should have a ‘…good working knowledge of the examination system’ (as required by JCQ regulations) and therefore are in a place to provide the relevant advice and guidance
  • The issue involve centre-related factors which only the senior leader can influence

If the issue remains unresolved following the involvement of the senior leader, then the relevant authority should be contacted for advice and guidance.

NAEO comment

As our October article (Recognising JCQ's role in raising the status and profile of the exams officer role) stated, in recent years, JCQ has worked hard to define roles and responsibilities within the examination system and clearly highlighted the role of senior leaders in leading on the examination system/process within their centre.

Exams officers can now point to JCQ regulations to confirm the support and supervision which they should be receiving from their senior leader(s)/line manager, and information such as that provided in this message to our members highlights how the NAEO defines the delivery of this support and supervision to exams officers in every centre.

However, it is imperative that senior leaders receive the necessary support so they can not only effectively line manage their exams officer and provide the relevant advice and guidance, but that they are confident that they are making the correct decisions which ensure the integrity and security of the examination system within their centre.

To this end, we look forward to receiving further information on the proposals from The Exams Office in relation to the senior leader support programme which they are proposing to launch from January 2024. The NAEO will support any initiative which helps us to achieve our core aim – raising the profile and status of the exams officer role.

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