As Head of Exams, Jo Bailey’s department is at the heart of academic life. Lockdowns and Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) have been just some of the changes in her five years at Radley. We sat down with Jo during a ‘quiet time’ for the Exams Team …
People always assume there’s a ‘busy time’ in Exams – but in reality, there’s never not a busy time!
To manage the exams cycle we’re always working ahead of the game. The timetable for November’s school exams is done in April before the summer exams begin. Prior to the exams in November, we will have timetabled the mocks which happen in January and March, and so it goes on. Once we have an idea of the timetable for the summer, we start thinking about our exam invigilators – making sure we have enough people and training them appropriately.
Then there are the school exams, which involves a lot of juggling to accommodate boys who miss an exam due to other commitments.
What do you most enjoy about your role here?
Dealing directly with the boys. My background is working with children – children in care, and those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. The boys’ welfare is my main concern. When I can help boys who are struggling, be it a medical (eg a broken hand) or emotional concern (stress and anxiety), putting in arrangements for rest breaks or extra time to ensure a level playing field means I know I have done my best for them.
What has changed since you started this role?
The biggest change is the care of candidates in exams, plus the introduction of invigilators. When I first started back in 2017 teachers were acting as invigilators but now we have a super team of dedicated invigilators.
Tell us more about the role of the invigilators in your team?
I couldn’t do my job without them. The regulations stipulate one invigilator for every 30 candidates, but we try to have more. Invigilating used to be just wandering up and down rows of desks or reading for a few hours, I even know of someone who once fell asleep (not at Radley, I hasten to add!). It’s so much more than that now.
Our team of 15 undergo online and face-to-face training every year to ensure rules and regulations are abided by to keep the school compliant. Plus, it’s important that the invigilators care. They need to make the boys feel at ease, smile and give them some reassurance.
What aspect are you proud of in terms of the way the College manages exams?
I’ve worked hard to make the atmosphere around exams more supportive while still sticking to the regulations. It’s really important to me to get to know the boys, and for
them to know they can come and see me in the office any time if they have any questions or worries.
I hope greeting them all as they come into an exam – some are chatty, some are still revising, some are nervous—helps to put them at their ease.
Do you have a favourite time of the year?
I love results day. While we don’t see the boys in person, we do talk to them on the phone and it’s (usually!) a lovely moment. A-level results day is mostly about university places and what the future holds for the boys.
One of the biggest ways Covid affected young people was through the cancellation of exams – what are your reflections on this?
I’d rather the boys had had the opportunity to sit exams properly, and most of the boys affected in the last two years seem to agree. The current 6.2s didn’t sit GCSEs so it has been interesting making sure they know all the rules and processes for sitting external exams.
Tell us about how your team ensures the security of exam papers and the strict regulations within the exam hall?
We have an exam secure room which holds all exam papers and is alarmed: two locks and multi-locking cabinets for the papers, it’s like Fort Knox! When the exam papers are delivered, either myself or the Deputy Head of Exams are the only people who can accept and sign for them. The papers go directly to the secure room where they are checked, logged, put away in order, recorded and secured.
Training is key to ensure we all know how to run an exam correctly, plus ensuring we are on top of any changes to regulations. We are inspected every year but never have any warning, so I have to ensure we are compliant at all times. Everything from the Examinations Policy to the secure room and training records for invigilators will be inspected.
What makes Radley a special place to work?
I have a great team around me and a supportive line manager, it all helps. I think we all get a bit blasé about our surroundings, but when you stop and look around you realise how lucky we are – the wisteria I see out of my window in spring is stunning.