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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 13:41 GMT
Schools seek more help with exams
exam room
Parents can supervise their own children - but not alone
Parents are being called upon more than ever this year to invigilate in exams at their children's schools.

Changes to teachers' job descriptions in England and Wales mean they should no longer be doing non-teaching work.

The latest impact of the change is that from now on, keeping a watchful eye on the hunched ranks in exam rooms is no longer considered part of their job.

So schools will be relying upon others such as lunchtime helpers, technicians, retired teachers, students and parents.


"This summer will be the first in which the invigilation will have to be carried out entirely by non-teachers," said the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, John Dunford.

"Schools have had several years to prepare for this - three years at least - so they have gradually been increasing the proportion of non-teaching staff doing it."

Dr Dunford supported the development.

Invigilating was not a good use of teachers' time, he said, but it was a good way for parents and others to get involved and help schools.


Official guidance from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) identifies a number of advantages to having invigilators who are focused on their role.

Centres that use these invigilators point out their cost-effectiveness, given the difference in hourly rate between teachers and others
Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
These include consistency in knowing and applying the procedures, and being available beyond the usual working day - including over lunchtime.

"Centres that use these invigilators point out their cost-effectiveness, given the difference in hourly rate between teachers and others," it says.

The posts might be voluntary or paid. There is no set rate and pay varies, though schools seem to offer in the region of 6 an hour.

"A range of people who have retired or taken early retirement from jobs such as youth work, the police and education have found this work attractive," the QCA says.


The appeal in Bexhill High technology college's newsletter was typical of many.

"We have had quite a good response and not just from parents - grandparents and other people", said Bexhill's exams officer, Deborah May.

They can think 'I've got to do well because mum's in the room'
Deborah May
school exam officer
As many as 15 invigilators might be needed at any one session, she said.

The minimum requirement was one invigilator for every 30 candidates.

There might be perhaps 400 children taking an exam, and some youngsters with special needs required extra support, such as a reader or writer or help with specialist equipment.

People can oversee an exam being taken by relatives, provided there is someone else in the room - though they cannot assist family members who put their hands up.

But there is also the embarrassment factor to consider.

"People can invigilate their own children as long as they are happy and their child is happy," Mrs May said.

"They can think 'I've got to do well because mum's in the room'. It just makes them panic a bit more."

She said there was a grey area in the new procedures relating to special needs, in that teachers could still be needed in the exam to cope with children with behavioural problems, for example.

Invigilating has become an all-year-round job. As well as the public exams in the summer there are modules in January and March and November, and Sats in May.

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