Headteachers have raised concerns about the lack of supervisors as pupils across the country started their GCSEs and A-levels on Monday.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said a recent ASCL survey of more than 500 school leaders showed that a third of schools had not been able to to recruit enough supervisors for the summer.
“It’s a very large number and it will cause a lot of logistical problems in the affected schools and colleges,” he said.
He added that the shortages appeared to be caused by invigilators being less willing to oversee exams due to Covid fears, as well as an increase in the number of pupils asking to take exams in rooms separate from the examination room due to stress and anxiety.
Schools and colleges will do all they can to help their students prepare for and take their exams this summer
“Many people who work as invigilators are retired teachers, may be concerned about the risks of catching Covid, and therefore not enthusiastic about being in an exam hall with a large number of students. , especially since the government has withdrawn free Covid tests,” he said.
“We have repeatedly asked the government to make free Covid tests available to students taking exams, which may have helped to allay those concerns, but the government has refused to do so. We don’t think that’s consistent with his rhetoric about the importance of exams.
Mr Barton said schools that were unable to recruit enough supervisors would have to use their existing staff, including teaching assistants, teachers or members of the management team, which would mean “redeploying what staff from other tasks that may have an impact on disposal”.
“This is a very frustrating situation for the schools and colleges involved.”
Sarah Hannafin, senior policy adviser for head teachers’ union NAHT, said: ‘Schools and colleges have been working hard to recruit invigilators for this summer – these teams are crucial to the smooth running of exams and with concerns as for a possible increase in absences during the exam season due to Covid, it is vital that each center has sufficient capacity.
She added: “Our members have reported increased demand for access arrangements, including requests for monitoring separate or small rooms, and many of these are linked to increased student anxiety, which creates also additional challenges for more supervisors and spaces to use.
“Schools and colleges will do all they can to help their students prepare for and take their exams this summer – not only in terms of teaching and learning, but also providing comfort and pastoral support.
“Most of these students haven’t taken external exams before nor have they seen their peers take them in the past two years, so there’s a real need to make sure they know the processes. and rules, that they know what to expect and can therefore focus on doing their best in exams.