No two weeks are the same in the life of OCR Customer Support Managers! October and November are busy months and, for us Customer Support Managers, it’s all about providing local face-to-face support. Here is what I got up to in a recent week.
First thing on Monday morning I head off from home to attend an exams officer network meeting in north-west Kent. The meeting is interesting and lively with lots of discussion about the new JCQ regulations and useful sharing of ideas and good practice. Network meetings offer an excellent opportunity to keep up to date with the latest news and developments and to discuss issues with colleagues. I would encourage everyone who isn’t already a member to find their nearest group and join – we’re always happy to help you with this. Have a look at our new exams officer web pages for full details.
After the meeting the host (and chair of the group) shows me her office. There is a whiteboard with details of actions and deadlines for the year – if anyone ever thinks that exams officers are only ‘busy in the summer’ they just need to take a look at this photo! I’m staying in Maidstone overnight as there are two more networks in Kent tomorrow so I head back to my hotel and spend the evening checking through my emails.
I’m up early on Tuesday to head off to a full day of exam officer network meetings; today it’s the Dover and Ashford and the Canterbury groups. It’s great to see such a good turnout and discussions include invigilator training and the increase in mock exams. We also talk about on-going qualification reform and the implications for the 2016 exam series. My second network finishes about 3.30pm and I spend the three and a half hour drive home listening to ‘Planet Rock’ radio (in between receiving a few calls from my colleagues in the Coventry and Cambridge offices). This is one of my longer trips but absolutely worth it.
In my opinion, exams officers are the unsung heroes of the exam system – often prepared to go above and beyond to ensure learners have the very best opportunity to perform well. I’m lucky enough to work with the nicest and most professional group of people and it’s both a pleasure and a privilege to support exams officers in their important role.
Wednesday finds me travelling down to Reading to facilitate one of our regional teacher network events. These meetings are designed to support teachers with the delivery of the new specifications and are led by our Subject Specialists. Teachers can become part of a regional network and share best practice. It’s also a great way to gain support from colleagues and hear the latest news. A full list of our events is available on our website. The network finishes at 6.00pm and this means I can’t make my Pilates class this week – is it wrong to feel relieved?!
I’m catching the train to London on Thursday to attend the RTA training event for new exams officers in Hatton Garden. This is organised in conjunction with The Exams Office and supported by OCR. I’m presenting on GCSE and A Level reform, and making entries. It’s a great event with over 40 delegates – lots of fun and an opportunity to provide help and support to new exams officers (some of whom have only been in post for a matter of weeks). I catch the train home at 5pm and I’m able to check my emails on the way – the wonders of wireless! I get home by about 7pm and spend the evening watching too many episodes of The Walking Dead.
Friday is a rare ‘office’ day. Although I’m actually field-based – so much of my time is spent travelling around to different networks and centres in my region that I don’t have my own desk – I can still pop into our Coventry office to work when I have a day free. This is a great chance to catch up on emails and I’m meeting with one of our sector managers to discuss customer feedback and look at what improvements we could make to our processes.
It’s also our customer support team weekly teleconference. My colleagues are located in different parts of the country so we can’t always meet in person. Our weekly conference is an opportunity for us to share the latest news and compare feedback from the networks – I am sure it will come as no surprise that many exams officers have similar concerns and issues. This is just one of the reasons these events are so important to us – it’s a real opportunity to listen to you. By popping into the office I can also catch up with my colleagues – as usual there’s a great atmosphere and, as usual, it’s someone’s birthday so there’s an abundance of cake and biscuits! I’m now looking forward to spending the weekend away in Wales before it starts all over again next week!
Alison Leather - Customer Support Manager (South East)
Alison is Customer Support Manager for the South East region. The Customer Support Team provides support, training and guidance for centres administering OCR qualifications.
Alison has worked in education since 1995, as an Exams Manager in a college, a Centre Support Officer with the National Assessment Agency (NAA) and an Exams Officer in a secondary school – so she knows how challenging and rewarding it can be working in the exams office. Alison joined OCR as Customer Support Manager in 2007.