Andy Brunning, Chemistry A Level Subject Advisor
With staff changes, switching specifications, or simply due to the busyness of teaching, it can sometimes be difficult to keep track of when your centre’s last A Level science practical endorsement monitoring visit took place, and when you can expect your next one. In this blog, I’ll explain how monitoring cycles work, when you can expect to receive a visit, and answer some other frequently asked questions.
The practical endorsement is monitored in two-year cycles. This means that, over a two-year period, all centres entering students for A Level science qualifications will receive a practical endorsement monitoring visit.
Cycle 5 of practical endorsement monitoring started in October 2023, and will run until May 2025. A Level Geology runs a year behind due to when it was reformed, so Cycle 5 for Geology monitoring will start in October 2024 and run until May 2026.
Most schools will be monitored for one science subject in each two-year cycle. Assuming you pass this visit, the pass covers all A Level Sciences at your centre, so you won’t receive further visits until the next cycle comes around.
If you deliver A Level Geology, you’ll always receive a visit for this in each cycle, as it’s monitored separately from the other sciences.
Centres that have 140 entries in any A Level science subject are monitored for all A Level science subjects in each two-year cycle, so you can expect to receive three visits (or four if you also deliver A Level Geology).
Monitoring visits cycle through the science subjects. So, if you were visited for Biology in the previous cycle, you can expect to receive a visit for Chemistry this cycle. If you were previously visited for Chemistry, you can expect to receive a visit for Physics. Your visit will always be carried out by the exam board you use for the subject being visited.
As previously mentioned, if you deliver A Level Geology you can also expect a visit for this in each cycle.
If you don’t deliver all A Level sciences, your monitoring visit will cycle through those that you do deliver. For example,, if you deliver A Level Biology and A Level Chemistry, but not A Level Physics, you would be visited for Biology in one cycle, then Chemistry in the next, then back to Biology for the subsequent cycle.
Similarly, if you deliver all A Level sciences, but use International A Levels in one subject, the monitoring visits would cycle through the subjects that you use UK A Levels for only.
Because monitoring runs on a two-year cycle, exactly when your centre receives a visit will vary. Some centres might find themselves visited every other year. Some centres may find themselves being visited in consecutive years (for example, in the second year of one cycle and then in the first year of the subsequent cycle), or even with a two-year gap between visits. An example for a particular centre is shown below.
While we try to space out visits where we can, when they take place can be impacted by allocations between exam boards and monitor availability. We’ll usually aim to complete more visits in the first year of a monitoring cycle, to allow for more time to address late-presenting centres in the second year of the cycle.
The best course of action is to discuss this with your monitor. We know that long-term staff absence or illness can impact your ability to accommodate a monitoring visit. There may also be times in the year (for example, during mock exams) when it wouldn’t be convenient for a monitoring visit to take place. In these types of circumstances or similar, your monitor will be happy to discuss arranging a mutually convenient time for your visit.
That’s not a problem – just let the exam board that’s contacted you know you are leaving, so they’re aware that your new board should be carrying out your visit. At the same time you should also let your new exam board know you’ve switched providers. If you have recently switched to us, let us know as soon as possible so we can ensure your visit is allocated correctly.
At the beginning of each monitoring cycle, UK exam boards release cross-board messaging (this linked document is available on our secure Teach Cambridge website, talk with your Exams Officer about access) outlining key points for teachers to be aware of. Our practical endorsement FAQs also cover what your monitor will be looking for during a monitoring visit, so you know what to expect.
Still got questions about practical endorsement monitoring? Ask us in the comments below or you can email us at email@example.com, call us on 01223 553998 or message us on X @ocrexams. You can also sign up to subject updates to keep up-to-date with the latest news, updates and resources for your subject.
Andy joined OCR in September 2017 as the subject advisor for A Level Chemistry. He has a Chemistry BSc and a Secondary Science PGCE from the University of Bath. Before joining OCR, he worked as a chemistry teacher in Bournemouth and Cambridge. He also sidelines as a science communicator and has produced infographic projects for the Royal Society of Chemistry and the American Chemical Society.