The end of the summer season. Is there such a thing? There are certainly little endings, the last exam for sure. But maybe earlier than that, you can close up one exam space earlier than the others, pack up a few desks, take down some signage? All leading up to that part of the year when EVERYONE else in a school thinks the Exam Officer’s job is done. Because what do we do if we aren’t in an exam? Nothing right!

To be honest, after my last exam, even if it’s a late one, I make sure to stick around after it to get entirely packed up. I tried once leaving it (and I don’t mean like exam papers or confidential stuff), I mean I tried ending the last exam, packing the script off with FedEx and running away. But going back the next day to exam spaces without exams ended up being the longest day and kind of sad. So now, I end the last exam, pack up the papers and post and get those safely locked away, then I start clearing up and shipping out. Posters, paperwork, signs, stationery boxes, pile the laptops, wrap up all the extension leads, and leave my exam space like I found it. Done.

Sure, it does feel like the end of something. For the first time in 8 weeks, I can now sit back at my desk. My proper desk in my proper office. I make myself a cuppa and for a good moment, relax back in my chair and then…

Jobs to consider; Checking all your Special Consideration Applications are in; Answering the Exam Board emails when they spot check candidates attendance and scare you into thinking they haven’t received a script packet.

I definitely make the most of the downtime, but I find it helpful to at least get a debrief written down whilst it is fresh in my head. Things that went wrong (wrong in my opinion) are definitely top of my list but over the years I try to list all the positives as well. We can’t do this job year in year out and only focus on the negatives, the things you could have planned better. We must acknowledge our wins – even if we’re the only people who knew they happened. I’ve also found the debrief a more positive experience when I think about how the bad things could be improved in the same report. Rather than it just be a moan, a snag list – this way it becomes an action plan.

I always aim to meet my invigilation team after all exams are finished. Even better if this involves a restaurant and a nice meal but if the school budget doesn’t stretch then a meeting on site with some goodies (personal budget) is always valuable. They end up, if they are good at their job, at knowing some of the candidates way more than we do. As exam officers, even at exam time in the thick of it, we may be pulled to the background of exam admin. My invigilators have a unique insight into the actual moment by moment running’s of the day. What worked, what didn’t and how they could be supported better or differently.

It’s a great few weeks for me to get ahead on the new year – this includes getting the Lunch and Learn dates in my diary: Exam Officer Membership – Lunch and Learn Club (examofficers.co.uk) I suppose working in an international school might be different from the UK. We break up for summer a lot earlier and mostly everyone ships out over those roasting hot summer months – that is maybe not an issue in the UK!

Access Arrangements become a huge talking point after my summer series. With more and more being given out, the time taken to prepare for an exam is increasing with complicity. I’m forever looking to improve the process but encourage this to come from the SEN department who hands out AAs in the first place. The number of laptops needed for word processor candidates this summer was the highest I’ve ever had and there is nothing more disheartening than candidates saying they don’t want to use it when you have set up 20 laptops before an exam. The time and effort to facilitate Access Arrangements is becoming untenable and I make sure to book a meeting with SEN and Learning Support to see what we can do in future. In the last 2 series I’ve found it extremely useful (time consuming sure, but useful) to keep a log of AA candidates who do not or refuse to use their AAs. This can go some way to providing evidence of a normal way of working and for which subjects in particular that laptops are just not utilised.

For the Access Arrangement Updates see this great event which receives fantastic feedback: Access Arrangements and the Exams Officer. 2024/2025 Updates – Exam Officers

Another thing I’ve always done at the end of a series came from a Yearbook idea I saw. “Our School in Numbers”. I remember thinking I have some really cool numbers – or maybe they were just cool to me – the exam geek. But I gave it a whirl and was surprised how other departments responded. I could only manage this task as “fun” and only if I was sure everything important was already complete and I had time.

I could use my timetable to work out the total hours of exam papers sat. 8 weeks of 3 sessions per day could equal hundreds of hours. I could work out the total number of exam scripts completed. The total amount of kgs of post sent with FedEx across the globe. Also added things like how many steps I’d taken over the series and how many lbs I’d lost. Fun activity but really puts a series into a quantifiable perspective. Very interesting. To me anyway.

I do get a thank you – a few I suppose. I get the usual comments as I go past in the corridor in the last week or so of exams – nearly done, eh??!! Then I will get some thank you – a mention in an email. In all honesty it’s not needed. I don’t mind. It’s my job. I don’t go round congratulating teachers daily for being teachers. It’s always nice when someone acknowledges the job role. Maybe a member of staff was involved in some way, maybe it took a team to work out a complicated clash – and for a second they get a glimpse into what the role entails outside of handing those exam papers out. Those thank you messages are the best. From a place of understanding and sometimes (hopefully) shock.

Out of an average of about 300 student cohorts I’d say still only 1 or 2 thank you messages will come from students. I get it. I stand at the front every exam barking the same instructions 3 times a day – they don’t want to thank me. What have I possibly done for them?? One day they will email for their certificates. And my memory is long 😉

The end of the series – have a cup of tea before it all starts again during the results period. If you are looking for results day training take a look here: Exam Officers Lunch and Learn – July Session (Results) – Exam Officers