May and June in senior schools around the UK are a nerve-wracking time for 15-18 year-olds as they sit their GCSE and A level exams. These exams hold the key to continued study in the sixth form or further education at University. This period is equally challenging for their staff. All teachers worry about how well their candidates will do under exam pressure but more so this year as this group of pupils are the first to sit formal external exams since the first lockdown in 2020 and 2 terms of online learning.
Life as an Exams Officer starts much earlier in the year with entries to be submitted in February but the busiest period is obviously as the exams begin. As exam dates approach there are rooms to allocate and that all important invigilation timetable to put together. Some schools use outside invigilators but at Fyling Hall members of staff supervise each exam. Our pupils feel much more relaxed when there is a familiar face in the exam hall and that all important smile can calm the worst of nerves. Each morning the staff gather around the notice board to see if their initials appear on the rota. It is not an easy task making sure that all the slots are filled, no one is invigilating their own subject and that it is shared out as equally as possible. There are the inevitable groans as staff realise they have lost some free time but our staff team work well together and any problems are quickly sorted. In general our slots last 30 minutes each as it is quite a challenge for most of us to spend that long simply watching pupils work without doing our own marking or planning.
The rules are very strict: no phone use, no activity except supervising pupils and no interaction with candidates. I overheard one member of staff this week who couldn’t quite decide whether invigilation was actually a very mindful activity or simply a form of torture for teaching staff! External exams continue everyday until 24th June and then we will complete our exam season with Year 10 exams from 27th June. Then the staff and pupils will relax a little until results days! Until then, it remains a nerve-wracking time for 15-18 year olds.
Cathy Hornung, 2022 Exam Officer