Oops, this blog never got published, even though I finished it!
It’s still useful though, so have a look and I hope it is helpful…
MidYIS testing is done to determine the level that a year 7 is at when they first join secondary school. Because of that it needs to be done as soon as possible once the new school year starts.
From an Exams Manager’s point of view, this can be difficult to prepare in advance if your school MIS doesn’t roll over to the new academic year until it actually starts! My solution to this was to obtain timetabling information from those responsible, in advance. I received year 7 class lists and a rooms timetable for the schools week.
As we were doing the tests online for the first time I booked our IT suite rooms for the day and used rooms which were not timetabled for classes as much as possible (to save our Cover Manager having to do so many re-rooms on the 2nd day of term!)
I also created a domestic season in my exams management software (I use SIMS Exams Oraniser) and pre-populated it with the pastoral intake group. In order to ‘enter’ the year 7’s for the test and seat them, I issued them each with an ‘exams number’ (we use them from year 7 in my school). Then based on the class lists I had obtained, I seated them in their class groups.
The first day of term, I spent refining the entries based on non-starters and new additions. I made sure my invigilators were booked still and happy to come in for the whole day. I liaised with the Cover Manager to make sure that we had enough free teachers coming along to help with the supervision of the students. I confirmed all arrangements to SLT who made sure that staff were informed of the testing and what was required of them on the day, in terms of releasing students from lessons, escorting and supervising students. The IT team were on hand all day to help with any issues which cropped up (it always pays to include these guys on your planning).
I’d like to say that the day ran smoothly without a hiccup, but we had problems from the start. The majority of the year 7 students had not logged into the school network before and did not know how to (Learning point number 1), the testing software takes a long time to load up, more so if there is a large numer of students accessing is at the same time (Learning point number 2), County Council had not been informed in advance that we would be conducting the tests and were not expecting such a large volume of net activity (Learning point number 3), VirginMedia had a problem with one of their servers going down, which created major problems with connectivity (not much we could do about that one), I hadn’t planned in any time out for myself or my invigilator’s during the day and had to do some quick logistical shuflling in my head as I was zooming from room to room keeping things flowing (Learning point number 4), two students quit the test without completing it properly therefore no results were uploaded for them and they will need to retake the test (Learning point number 5).
Overall I have only 4 students out of the whole cohort who we need to do the test on another day (two of those were off ill on the day), so I’m not unhappy with the way the day went.
There were a number of areas where I felt we could improve the way the testing happened. These have already been indicated in the text above, so I’ll just put my thoughts on improvement possibilities here.
Learning point 1
All year 7 students join a Vertical Mentor Group on their first day and spend time in these groups getting to know about how the school works. During this period they could also be introduced to the school computer network and login for the first time. This will not only ensure that they know how to login, but will enable their profiles to be initialised and set-up prior to them taking their tests.
Learning point 2
As the network becomes overloaded with 90 students accessing online tests at the same time, I will schedule the students in smaller batches of 60. This number of students worked better in the later sessions and so will probably be more easily accommodated throughout the day.
Learning point 3
County Council will be advised in advance that the tests will be taking place so that they can anticpate the increased burden on the network and plan accordingly. They will also be aware that it is not any rogue activity such as a virus increasing traffic.
Learning point 4
Although I intend to test fewer students at one time, I will retain the same number of invigilators. This will allow the invigilators to take time out for refreshments and lunch during the course of the day, without needing any last minute planing.
Learning point 5
Students will be advised at the outset, to complete the tests and finish them in the proper manner to avoid having to retake them again.