Sometimes you think they do not need you?

After reading the following article from the TES - 'Critical' budget situation is 'damaging' education-  it will be very clear to many of you that exam office jobs are no safer than anyone else's in their school or college community. Staff are not being replaced or that help you used to get is no longer there, even though the demands seem to grow year-on-year.


Are SLTs just closing their eyes to the concerns and needs of exams delivery? Are those teaching staff who used to be more approachable now more uncooperative and distant? Certainly not and our recent partnership with ASCL representing head teachers is clear evidence that the EOA is, at last, working more closely with SLTs in centres on how best to deal with all these changes. The article above captures a whole education community under pressure of which the exam office is an integral part, so what can the EOA do to help?


One message the EOA is trying to get across is - it’s not anyone single person or sector that impacts on the exam office role, that is at fault. What is more important is how do we respond to these challenges and that despite what some people think, no one should be expected to act like somekind of superman or woman to secure the system at any cost to their personal well being.


There are two major groups that make up the centre exam office community. Those who are new to post who welcome peer support through our various EOA services. Those services and the support are very much dependent on having a very reputable experienced workforce in place. The EOA is built around and upon its exam office community. However, that expert workforce too is under threat, but not just because of workload or the possible threat of redundancy.


Some experienced staff have said – ‘well I only have another year to go so I can put up with it’, but where will that centre be when that very experienced member of staff is gone? And whose responsibility is it to fill that gap? Many would say it is  down to the SLT to deal with, but while the exam office has performed successfully in splendid isolation for years, that lack of awareness of exam office need has grown, precipitating some exam offices into a downward spiral where they find themselves on the receiving end of uncomfortable structural change or as some have described it, unfamiliar meddling from SLTs and line managers.


That perception of ‘being left to get on with it’ by SLT has led to greater isolation in some cases. Those wanting to implement change from outside that exam office bubble, then get a sense from those in post that they are less flexible and approachable especially around contingency practices and processes which would secure all that good work they have done over the years, and lay down the foundations that would embrace any necessary change.


As some exam office personnel have established this isolationist position, as part of their survival tactics, they now find themselves taking on more and more, both internally and externally, with nowhere to turn. They cannot turn to awarding bodies for support or their represenatives because they only focus on related products and services. In some cases these staff have even lost touch with the EOA community which first supported their set up in the past.


The EOA, unlike other providers, have always promoted an exam office workforce that needs to adopt a more professional stance, share more openly with SLTs from their position of support and expert help that is vital to their centres' success, and not be seen as another source of problems and financial burden. The days are gone when exam office staff could maintain their position by simply being the only walking expert on exams delivery in their centre.


That elevated perception of untouchablity no longer exists in these very challenging times. The problems will not go away. The challenges will not go away, but developing a more proactive professional workforce that can and will be able to support their teaching colleagues under strain, more effectively. Exam office personnel need to help drive change as a professional, and not just except that they are simply a victim of the whole process.


It is exam office personnel who are the experts and should be sharing and telling SLTs what needs to done and by who, in order to secure their exam system. To not just leave all that good work they have put in to establish a successful exam delivery system in their centre to someone else’s ‘wish list’. If they do remain in isolation and leave it to someone else, then it may not be a surprise that they too might just find themselves on that list, with a new role or worse still, that they no longer hold a viable post.