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Teacher Craig Barton is back with series two of Inside Exams, the podcast that gives you an access all areas pass to snoop around behind the scenes at AQA.
He’ll be meeting the people who write and mark your students’ exams, as well as pioneering teachers, to get answers to all the questions you ponder throughout the school day.
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Exam rules: how not to practise malpractice
Episode six | 20 January 2020
What is exam malpractice? Richard Taylor, Head of Exams Integrity, and Louisa Fyans, Head of Exams Integrity and Inspection at AQA, tell Craig Barton exactly what both teachers and students need to be aware of. Exams officer Jessica Hickey also explains how she keeps her colleagues vigilant during exams season.
Featured in this podcast
Jessica Hickey – Exams Officer at St Martin's Catholic Academy
Test your knowledge of malpractice, try our quiz.
Craig Barton: Hello and welcome back to Inside Exams. I’m Craig Barton, a maths teacher with 15 years of classroom experience. But even after all that time, I’m still not massively confident about my many roles and responsibilities at exam time. So across this series, I’m meeting the people who can teach me a thing or two about assessments and exam etiquette. As it turns out, I’m not alone in wanting a little more information.
Toni: Hi, I am Toni and I’m an English teacher. I was just wondering – obviously we do our best to obviously help our students as much as we can before the exam, but what may we be doing that kind of blurs the lines that could be considered malpractice, not outright cheating, but could be considered malpractice.
Craig Barton: During court cases innocent mistakes can compromise the integrity of a trial. What if a juror overhears a conversation about the evidence the judge ruled inadmissible in the trial? Whether an action’s deliberate, careless or entirely inadvertent, the judge may well have to declare a mistrial. The consequences are serious regardless of the root cause. The same is true of national exams, and while I can’t imagine any of us intentionally cheating, I do wonder if you’re right Toni, that there are things we do that begin to blur the lines. So what could exam malpractice include? Does that just mean cheating or is there more to it? I’m going to meet Richard Taylor, AQA’s Head of Exams integrity and Louisa Fyans, Head of Exams of Integrity and Inspection to find out.
OK, Richard, if I can come to you first. What constitutes malpractice in terms of things that students might do?
Richard Taylor: It covers a wide variety of infractions by students potentially. The obvious ones are bringing things like unauthorised materials into the examination room such a mobile phone or anything that can connect to the internet, such a smart watch. Other aspects could be plagiarism, it could be sharing of confidential information, it could be things like anything – like to do undermines the integrity of the examination generally. So it covers a whole multitude of potential infractions by a candidate.
Craig Barton: And Louisa, how about teachers?
Louisa Fyans: For teachers we categorise malpractice into maladministration, breaches of security, so that might be where they’ve accidentally opened the wrong question paper packet before the exam, improper assistance is another infraction that could be committed by a teacher so that’s where they would be giving help to a student beyond what is permitted by the regulations.
Craig Barton: What strikes me about this is, there’s a fine line isn’t there, I assume anyway, between definite, deliberate malpractice and things that just happen inadvertently, perhaps careless. Where is that line? Could you give me an example perhaps of something a student may do that’s not deliberately trying to cheat, but would fall under the banner of malpractice?
Richard Taylor: The obvious example, as I said before, is the mobile phone. A student may forget to hand in their mobile phone during an examination and the mobile phone may even be switched off in their pocket, but the fact it is on their possession, would constitute malpractice.
Craig Barton: Wow is that right? So even if it’s off…
Richard Taylor: Even if it is off and even if it’s in their pocket and it’s not on display, the fact that it is on their possession would constitute malpractice, even if there is no intention by the student to cheat or to use that phone.
Craig Barton: Flipping ‘eck, and just in case we’ve got students listening to this here, if that phone is turned off but happens to be in their pocket and it gets discovered, what happens there? Is that game over in terms of that exam for that student?
Richard Taylor: In that situation, the penalty according to the JCQ guidelines would be that student would receive a zero mark for that exam.
Craig Barton: Wow. So pretty serious stuff?
Richard Taylor: It can be very detrimental the students absolutely.
Craig Barton: Flipping ‘eck, OK, so let’s get those mobiles turned off and let’s get them handed in. Fantastic. What about the teachers, Louisa? What might be something a teacher may do that again, in all innocence, but would fall under this category of malpractice?
Louisa Fyans: Yes, so again, it can happen and we do see it quite a lot in the cases we get through, so I mentioned before about accidentally opening a question paper packet early. So there are rules around when question paper packets can be opened for the exam –
Craig Barton: – Can you got into those rules?
Louisa Fyans: OK.
Craig Barton: Go into those rules there.
Louisa Fyans: Yes, so it’s changed recently but until recently they had up to an hour before the exam to open the question paper packets and get them ready for the students –
Craig Barton:– Yes.
Louisa Fyans:– sitting the exam. They are supposed to check what it says on the front of the question paper packet. They should check the date, they should check that they’ve got the right subject and the right paper. However, it can happen that they still accidentally open the wrong one and on occasions that paper might end up on the desk of the student. On a few occasions the student might accidentally end up sitting –
Craig Barton: – Wow.
Louisa Fyans : – that incorrect paper. Now in most of those situations, there has been no intention on the part of the individual who has opened that question paper packet, but unfortunately it has happened, they’ve not noticed it and it has potentially got through to a student who’s ended up sitting the wrong paper. And obviously the implications of that can be quite high if you’ve got a student who’s then sat a paper that’s actually due in two days’ time –
Craig Barton: – Yes.
Louisa Fyans: – they’ve seem the content now, the rest of the national cohort hasn’t, so there is a risk to the integrity of the exam.
Craig Barton: Of course, because I’m being daft here. All the papers essentially get delivered roughly the same time, right, for that exam series. So you crack up the wrong pack of papers and you've potentially, two days before the exam is going to be say, what on earth do you do in that situation?
Louisa Fyans: So in that situation we would need to get immediate assurances from the school as to what they’ve done to ensure that paper is then back in secure storage. We’d need to know who’s seen it, who’s had access to it. If a student has sat that exam, we’d need a signed declaration from them that they haven’t discussed the content with anybody and that they’re not going to discuss the content with anybody. Obviously for that student, they’ve actually missed and exam that they should have sat, so we would have to take steps to then protect to the student’s interests. Usually we’d have to estimate an outcome for them in that exam that they didn’t sit that they were supposed to.
Craig Barton: Wow, flipping ‘eck. OK, so that’s one to watch out for. Make sure you have a careful read over what you're opening up before you open it. And any other examples of something a teacher may do in advertently?
Louisa Fyans: Improper assistance can be and area as well I suppose. It’s one of those where obviously there’s guidance out there, there’s generic guidance about conducting non-exam assessment, and normally it’s in the non-exam assessment components that improper assistance might take place.
Craig Barton: What do you mean by ‘non-exam’?
Louisa Fyans: These are what used to be – they’re like course work or controlled assessment, what those used to be. So now it’s non-exam assessments. So that means it’s not – the student isn’t going to go into an exam at the end of it and be presented with the paper for the exam. It will be something they’re working on for an amount of time and it will be usually marked by teachers at the school rather than by our examiners at AQA. So what can happen with those there – as I said, there are rules around help and assistance a teacher can give to a student for those components. There’s some general rules for non-exam assessment and there will also be subject-specific rules in most cases. But it can happen that a teacher inadvertently gives too much help and that obviously then is an issue because that student might then have had help that they weren’t entitled to and that other students within the national cohort haven’t had.
Richard Taylor: And it can be a very fine line as to what is permitted and what isn’t. What is general advice that is permitted and what is subject-specific advice to the candidate that isn’t.
Louisa Fyans: And so in those situations we can’t necessarily accept the work that they’ve produced but we accept obviously that this isn’t the student’s fault, so we want to do something to protect their interests, and what we would usually do is estimate an outcome for the student in that affected component. And that is similar to what happens if they were absent for an acceptable reason or another reason why the work wasn’t available to be marked.
Craig Barton: We’ve touched upon this a little bit but how’s malpractice changed over time? Particularly I’m thinking with technology. How are the instances of malpractice changing?
Richard Taylor: The advent of social media has obviously presented a huge challenge to us. There’s opportunities for people to share information online that perhaps wasn’t there five, ten years ago, and any information that may have been given to candidates was in the past very localised and would only affected a very small number of candidates. Now of course if any student has any information or has been given any advantage at all before the exam, then that information can be shared online by that student –
Craig Barton:– Of course.
Richard Taylor: – and it can quickly escalate. We have a seen a significant number of fake papers being distributed online, which students may think are real, which causes its own problems, and again, potentially disadvantages students. So the advent of social media in particular just presents huge challenges to us.
Craig Barton: That’s incredible that because once it’s out there, there’s no way of controlling it, right? That must be incredibly difficult.
Richard Taylor: Absolutely, and I think some students fail to understand or fail to realise that if they receive any information such as the leak of a paper perhaps, and if they share that online with their friends that is malpractice in itself, so they would be subject if that is discovered to be a significant sanction.
Craig Barton: Oh that’s interesting, so it’s not just the student or teacher who – whoever, who’s initially leaked this, if any student received it and, let’s say, re-Tweets it, or emails it on to their friends, they’re potentially liable as well, is that right?
Richard Taylor: Absolutely. It’s not just the actual original source of the obtaining of any information. It’s people who then participate in the sharing that information online.
Craig Barton: If we go back to exam papers, so I could obviously imagine if an actual paper got leaked, that is massive and there’s been some high-profile instances of that. You mentioned before fake papers. Would that then – say like a student thinks, “Oh let’s have a joke, let’s pretend I’ve got hold of tomorrow’s English GCSE paper. Let me put it on Twitter. I’ve just made it up, I’ve done a bit of fancy Photoshopping of the front cover. I’m leaking that, bit of a laugh.” Is that serious? Is that malpractice to pretend you’ve got the paper?
Richard Taylor: If somebody does that, clearly they want people to believe that it’s the real thing, and it is having an impact on the integrity of the examination and undermining the integrity of the exams is sort of a category of malpractice for students. Now, just on that in relation to the sharing of hoax papers, one of the recommendations from the recent Dunford Commission report into malpractice has suggested that the sharing of a hoax paper will be malpractice in its own right. So that might be an actual offence in the very near future.
Craig Barton: Back to how malpractice may have changed over time, you know, obviously we’ve got lots of technological developments and happening mobile phones wouldn’t have been an issue 20 years ago and now they’re obviously sources of all the information in the world. But also you’ve got other things right? So watches would be a classic example. Watches now do far more than tell the time. We’re probably not too far away from having glasses that can do incredible things, and as a maths teacher myself, even the calculator. This was something we never used to have to worry about because a calculator could just do calculations, but now you can store things in there and all sorts. What kind of challenge is this and how on earth do you cope with this? All this technology that’s out there, how do you police that and ensure that centres are aware of what is permitted and what isn’t?
Louisa Fyans: It is difficult and obviously there is an element of trying to stay up to date, you have to know what the technological changes are. Mobile phones have been prohibited for a long time now so our smart watches – again, referring back to Richard Taylor mentioned the Dunford Commission, a recommendation from that was that all watches should be banned from the exam room from now on.
Craig Barton: Wow, that’s interesting.
Louisa Fyans: And that’s in the light of the fact that as technology develops it can become quite difficult to tell when it’s a smart watch or just a standard analogue watch.
Richard Taylor:I mean just on that Louisa Fyans, we had cases this summer where candidates were reported to us ourselves for having a FitBit on their possession and whether that was a smart watch or whether it was a straightforward watch.
Craig Barton: Of course. Right, I always like, when I’m lucky enough to speak to people from AQA, I love a bit of a kind of a day in the life of what happens here. So let’s imagine there’s an exam, we’re in the midst of exam season and something dodgy’s happened, there’s been a report of malpractice within a centre. What’s the process? Who lets you know and how do you find out and what’s the first thing that happens at your end?
Richard Taylor: Let’s say it was a candidate case referred to by the school, a lot of the time the information we receive from the school is on a prescribed form. Hopefully that would give us enough information, together with a candidate statement as to what’s happened from the candidate’s point of view and then show that their voice is heard in the investigation. So yes, they see – look at what that allegation is, evaluate the evidence that has been received and they’ll make a decision as to whether on the balance of probabilities, and that’s our test, on the balance of probabilities, has there been an infringement of our – of the rules, and if there has, then the next stage would be what sanction would be appropriate to apply to that candidate.
Louisa Fyans: For students, they might get a warning in the least serious cases. They could suffer a loss of marks for that particular paper that they’ve sat as Richard Taylor mentioned before. They could be disqualified, and that could be from the whole subject, it could be from more than one subject.
Craig Barton: Wow, oh really?
Louisa Fyans: Yes, yeah, depending on the severity of what they’ve done and ultimately we could bar them for a period of time from sitting AQA’s exams.
Craig Barton: Gee, so this could wipe them out for an entire GCSE series potentially?
Louisa Fyans: Potentially. That would have to be a very, very serious case.
Craig Barton: What are we talking there? What would they have to do to push it that far?
Louisa Fyans: Yeah, that’s a good question. So for example, if somebody perhaps deliberately gained access to one of our papers early, posted it on social media, was sharing it widely with other people.
Craig Barton: Yes, that’s bad.
Louisa Fyans: That would be a very serious case, because if you think about it in terms of impact of that, how many people might have been affected by it, what action we might have to take for the other students, that would be very serious.
Craig Barton: And what about if a teacher does something, because ultimately it’s going to be the students who suffer. How do you balance that out?
Richard Taylor: It can go from – anything from words of advice. So we don’t actually issue a sanction as such, we just offer words of advice so that they don’t hopefully do the same infraction again. We can give then a warning, we can ask them to undertake training or be supervised by somebody more senior to them in whatever aspects of the examination that may have gone wrong in that series or again we could suspend – we could put a suspension on that teacher in relation to being involved in AQA’s examinations for a period of, you know, one, two, even more years.
Louisa Fyans: We do also have sanctions that apply to a centre. So if we had concerns about more systemic issues, perhaps lots of things that don’t seem to be being doing correctly, lots of breaches at the school, we could bar a centre as it were. So we could withdraw their ability to enter for AQA’s exams, or de-register them from being able to enter with us.
Craig Barton: To wrap things, up, we always like some practice takeaways for the teachers who are listening. So my first question is, if a teacher suspects some malpractice is going on, whether it’s deliberate or inadvertent, what should they do, who should they call?
Louisa Fyans: I would say that a teacher who suspects that, they should inform their head of centre and there is an obligation to inform the relevant awarding body. So they need to make sure that notification to us comes through. And like I said, it isn’t about this is a proven case of malpractice, but if they suspect it could be malpractice they do need to inform us.
Craig Barton: Fantastic. And if we’ve got some students listening, who definitely don’t want to deliberately cheat, but want to make sure that they don’t fall into some of the things that we’ve spoken about, what are some of the top tips you’d say to students? What are some of the big don’ts or do’s that students should listen to?
Richard Taylor: The big don’t is clearly don’t bring your mobile phone into the examination room. That accounts for a significant proportion of our candidate malpractice cases that we receive, the majority of which of course are inadvertent. So my advice would be to leave that mobile phone at home. If you do have to take it into the school, ensure that it’s handed in before you go into the examination room. And again, if a student before the exam sees anything online, do not share that information, do not re-Tweet it, do not forward it on, but make sure that that information is passed on, either to a teacher or to the head of centre. Or if that feels uncomfortable, then come to the awarding body directly and we will investigate as to why that information has been put on line and we will take action wherever possible.
Craig Barton: Well, I’m going to make sure I follow all that advice because at the end of the day we work so hard for our students and the last thing we want to do is jeopardise that by doing something that we don’t intend to do. So thank you so much for your time today.
Louisa Fyans: Thank you.
Richard Taylor: Thank you.
Craig Barton: I feel a lot clearer about what counts as malpractice. There’s so much we should be doing in school to maintain the integrity of exams. Jessica Hickey is the Exams Officer at St. Martin’s Catholic Academy. I’m going to meet her to understand how she keeps her colleagues vigilant during exam season.
Jessica, so my first question for you is what are some of your responsibilities as an exams officer?
Jessica Hickey: Mainly the – keeping the integrity of exams. So that includes all the organisation, but it’s all the preparation which also gives you the confidence when the exams are actually in place. My responsibility is also to train invigilators, because obviously they take on a lot of the responsibility when the exams are in progress and to make sure that everybody is going from the same rulebook and all the exams are protected.
Craig Barton: What happens practically, in terms of the delivery of papers? This always interests me because you must have like thousands of papers come through roundabout exam season. And of course if any of those leak out or anything it's all going to be kicking off. I'm picturing kind of like a an armoured vehicle pulling up and you coming out there with guards and stuff what happens when these papers arrive and where do you keep them?
Jessica Hickey: OK so there's a lot of regulations given by JCQ. The exam papers are delivered securely, but just by a courier, no particular vehicle involved. But then it is all very much recorded, so if we haven't received the papers then we have to notify the awarding body straight away and obviously, anything just to minimise the amount of time that the papers haven't been accounted for. So as soon as the papers arrived in school, we as an exams officer have to pretty much collect those papers from the office straight away. So it's just having a clear procedure in place with other members of staff in the school. What’s your contingency if you as an exams officer is not in school? So just making – and it does have to go directly to your secure unit in your secure a room. So there's usually a safe or a locked filing cabinet. So we have to take the papers straight away which could be boxes and boxes at a time –
Craig Barton: Do they all come on the same day?
Jessica Hickey: No, they are varied over time, but as I said, you are to have at least three weeks, where are the exam papers you should be able to store that in your secure –
Craig Barton: Could you just give us a sense of the kind of size that needs to be question mark what are we talking here?
Jessica Hickey: So my cohort is – well last year it was 100 and in the coming here it's going to be a 150, so I'm actually looking at redoing my secure storage. But that is about a double safe, like a filing cabinet safe of about 5 shelves –
Craig: Right OK and –
Jessica Hickey: – and it gets.
Craig Barton:I bet, and an even bigger centres, particularly when you chuck a level and all that into the mix, we could be talking huge here.
Jessica Hickey: Absolutely, yes. It’s a massive thing. So we have to check them all off and make sure everything is accounted for and then it all has to be put in date order as well. So the JCQ inspectors, they may come round and do an inspection to check on the papers and that is how they are organised and also to check they haven't been opened.
Craig Barton: Yes of course.
Jessica Hickey: Yes, I did hear a story that the exams officer was off ill so admin support, or part of the team, decided to take all of the exam papers and she thought she was helping her by unwrapping them out of each –
Craig Barton: Oh no, I'm cringing, I'm cringing.
Jessica Hickey: Out of each plastic wallet and organise – all locked away and secure, but every paper was out of its plastic sealed wallet which obviously, when the exam officer came back, alarm bells soon went.
Craig Barton: What happens in that situation?
Jessica Hickey: So that obviously has to get reported to the awarding bodies, and there have been some sort of support and place in order to – just a bit of retraining and I think they have to check exactly who has seen the papers, how far it could have spread I think because it was quite contained that the blessing. But it's just things that people don't quite realise how high the security is. And bless her she just thought she was doing them a job.
Craig Barton: So let's assume that the papers have arrived safely, they’re locked away, happy with that, and no one’s cracked them open. What are some examples of things that could still go wrong at that instance? Give me some examples of malpractice. Whether they’re deliberate or non-deliberate, they could still happen.
Jessica Hickley: Ok so you hear it most years. It hasn't happened in my centre, but it definitely has happened this year come away the wrong exam papers has been handed out. So that's one of the reasons why JCQ have brought in that you - it's called a ‘second pair of eyes check,’ so that's where two people have to sign the papers out and then with good practice we also get our invigilators to sign in the room, individual room, but they've checked the papers as well.
Craig Barton: What are some of the most recent changes the things that teachers can and can't do that potentially some listeners may not be aware of that they need to be aware of?
Jessica Hickey: Got to go near the exam room if it's your particular subject. You shouldn't be allowed in there unless you've got purpose to be in there. But you don't want to put yourself in a position where, whether you think you’re intentionally doing malpractice or not, you don't want to put yourself in a position where it's going to be even questionable. Obviously, they're not allowed to have prior knowledge to the exam papers but they shouldn't have that opportunity to even be in reach of the exam papers.
Craig Barton:Talk to me about the practicalities of after the exam. Because that's another potential – anything could be happening there couldn't it? So you say to the kids, “Put your pens down now,” what happens to those papers and how do you ensure there's no inadvertent malpractice that happens at that stage?
Jessica Hickey: Play get told, “No more writing,” so they should be in vigilant that they're not scribbling down loads more answers. So they close their paper and then they are to still be in exam conditions full stop it is the rule and it is exam conditions from the moment they enter the hall to the moment they leave the whole. It's not when the exam is actually finished.
Craig Barton: That's a big one that's right question mark because you could imagine, particularly if it's the last exam, a kids finished come up n down, they have a say something, look around or something like that. That’s still malpractice?
Jessica Hickey: That's still from malpractice. It's communicating comma its communication so it's still malpractice. They don't need to be talking at that stage. They can wait until they're outside and then they can do a big exhale, it's all over, and then they can share their experiences. but whilst they're in the exam hall, the discipline is the same they are to be seated, and wait till all the exam papers are collected and there's nobody to please until all the papers are collected and then they are obviously allowed to go, and then myself or the invigilators will then put all the papers in order in accordance to the attendance registers given by the awarding bodies and then I do not let anything leave until everything is sealed in the bags ready for the collection from the careers.
Craig Barton: Now, with all these potential malpractice that could happen, obviously it's far better to prevent this happening than have to deal with the consequences, so what measures do you put in place? Let's take students first. What are the kind of messages and how are you giving them to students to ensure that they don't fall into these traps?
Jessica Hickey:At our centre, we tend to do them a student handbook every year. So it's a written document that goes home to Mum and Dad and the student has to sign to say that they've read it.
Craig Barton: R eally? That's interesting.
Jessica Hickey:And the parents have to sign to say that their child has read it.
Craig Barton:This is purely about kind of –
Jessica Hickey:Exams. So it's all our sorted procedures, so what's expected of them within our school, so start times, what they need to bring, how they need – clear and simple information. A clear pencil case, all that sort of thing to start with and then we also include all the JCQ suggested documents for the candidates, so including the big no mobile phones poster.
Craig Barton:Yes that's big one light?
Jessica Hickey: It's quieter and not too lengthy, but it has got a lot of information in there. So even if they have any questions, they should be able to refer to that and it should be quite clear and then when will also follow up for the assemblies. I think every media of communication is needed because they're not interested, they're not going to take it in. they're not go to read all the rules and unfortunately sometimes it takes for something horrible to happen for them to actually realise , so a written – you don't want them to make them feel more pressured what in an exam room that they're going to do something wrong, I think it's just the main points really of if you do this is not a school matter, it's not up to the school’s discipline it goes further than that and the consequences could be massive.
Craig Barton: Jeez, and I think that's a smart move getting the parents into the mix as well. Do they tend to take it seriously do you think?
Jessica Hickey:I think so. Well I think getting parents to understand it as well and to make sure that the child has to be responsible for themselves, something can't happen and then you'll tend to get parents that me blame the school in some way but if you can say that you've given all the information and they've been told what's expected of them, they haven't met that criteria, at least you can kind of cover yourself in that situation.
Craig Barton: One thing that's really come out of this particular episode is that students can be the ones that bring about this malpractice, whether they mean to or not, but also teaches. Teachers can. How do you inform teachers? Do they have an assembly?
Jessica Hickey: Not necessarily I'm trying to communicate more efficiently with the subjects that do non-examinations assessments. I think that is probably where teachers are most likely to make a mistake. For instance, we've had an example where the teacher – part of the written examination could be supported by a 500-word notes and that had to be signed off by the teacher that the notes were relevant to that part of the paper and the notes were also written in a controlled environment. So I think there was a bit of panic because these particular notes haven't been completed. So instead of communicating with myself for the head of centre so we could probably make a plan going forward, it was just kind of a little bit backdated on signatures and some of the notes went supervise properly. So that did result in that paper not being counted towards those students.
Craig Barton: Wow, it's serious stuff this isn't it?
Jessica Hickey:Yes. It was myself that sort of picked up on the information to start with and then we did start with an internal investigation using one of the JCQ forms before sending it off to the awarding body for stopping the exam room we said to the invigilators, note and Report everything. Even if they think it's the smallest thing, we have proper form in the room, just write it down and I can read it after, and if I think there's a particular pattern or a particular incident then I can follow it up. Because if we don't know, if I'm not aware, if the invigilators do notice it and then I'm not aware because I'm not in the exam hall, there could always be a student that then reports it directly to the awarding body.
Craig Barton:I want to talk now about the invigilators. Because they must play a key role in this right? my first question is do you kind of take responsibility for training them up and making sure they are aware of all the regulations?
Jessica Hickey: Yes, so we do annual training. The regulations change every year, there updated every year, also I don't think it hurts to just sort of go over what our sort of procedure and what we expect. As we’re growing, we also get new invigilators. I'm very lucky in my centre that I do have a very good team of invigilators. They work very well together, which is key. And they're regular. I'm not changing invigilators constantly which might be I'll see them first thing at the start of the academic year just a catch-up. will probably have a bit of a debrief on how the summer season went and take in their advice and giving them a voice as well at what they think maybe we could do better or I'll take the notes from the exam hall and say, “Well we saw a lot of toilet breaks,” you know, just little things and then I'll do that obviously an annual training which this year took four hours.
Craig Barton: Wow. What kind of thing are you covering there?
Jessica Hickey: Everything. so we will cover the start of the exam during the exam, so they get a whole section on malpractice also, so things to look out for, what do we do if we see a malpractice and it's not to panic and to raise alarm, but if it's a minor thing obviously to note it. If it's something like continue using form, the exam officer -
Craig Barton: Yes, is interesting isn't it, because – it's a tough job that being an invigilator, because if you're on to absolutely everything, the whole atmosphere of the room changes, students get anxious and so on, but you can't let things go at the same time, that’s tough.
Jessica Hickey: No, but to have a demanding presents but to also be compassionate to the students because they're in a very stressful time and I think you don't want to be accusing all the time. you don't want to be looking at them as if they're going to be doing something wrong, but we get our invigilators in for our mocks as well, and we do are mock invigilation the same as GCSEs, it's good practice for both the students and invigilators, and then we can have a debrief after those mock examinations and think well what works well, what didn't work well and it's also very good practice for the students, so they know what's expected of them.
Craig Barton: I didn't realise the invigilators take notes kind of after every – what kind of things are on those notes?
Jessica Hickey:Anything. So a lot of it would be toilet breaks, so it would be, "Left the room at this time, came back.
Craig Barton: Candidate number, who's left and stuff, right.
Jessica Hickey:Yes, so who's left, who took them, the time they left the hall, the time they've come back. It could be – I mean we get them to write down things like, “Student didn't attempt paper,” although that wouldn't be other interests of anything that comes out, but that helps us with post-results. It just keeps you informed of the whole series.
Craig Barton: And you get all those notes do you?
Jessica Hickey: Yes, after every exam, and then I keep them attached to every seating plan until ...
Craig Barton: Wow. Jeez.
Jessica Hickey: In case I have to refer back to it because it could be that there was a particular noise going on from this time to this time that we would have to monitor. But, don't ever student complains to me and I have no idea what they are talking about then I can't really have much comment on the situation. So I'm just like note and report everything and then if we have to pick up anything we can.
Craig Barton: To bring things to a close, this is giving me an incredible insight into the exam officer’s life. I think I've underappreciated my exams officers call my let's just throw that out there for a start. If we've got teachers listening to this, what could they do to make your life a bit easier? What's your dream teacher to work with?
Jessica Hickey: Obviously you know what you’re teaching, but knowing your own key dates and what admin you need to complete in terms to meet those deadlines as well. And just communication as well. I think communication is a massive part of it because I need to be in the loop with things. So if you are booking particular non-examination assessment and things, it's grateful stop even if I'm not particularly involved in the organisation, it's great for me to know that that is happening, and then I can support you if you need that support. So I think the main thing is just having that good communication.
Craig Barton: Fantastic. I'm going to definitely up my game now going forward. Jessica, it's been an absolute pleasure to speak to you today.
Jessica Hickey: No, no, it's been lovely thank you.
Craig Barton: I love the idea of this super-slick, secret operation that Jessica runs to keep her school safely above board. But I'm also really interested in how much value she puts on getting to know both staff and students personally to make sure no one has a chance to slip through the net. Think you are now able to spot questionable conduct? Well, in the podcast show notes you'll find our 'is this malpractice' quiz. And keep an eye out on your podcast feed because next week you'll be able to hear a special episode that will guide you through some of those malpractice investigations Richard and Louisa talked about. I'll be back in two weeks’ time and looking for more top tips and inside scoops. But in the meantime, make sure you rate, review, and subscribe to the podcast. You can also join the conversation and ask your own questions on Twitter, using #InsideExams. Until next time, goodbye.