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Solving Problems and Making Decisions Essay

I work for SGS College in Bristol. The college caters for 16-19 year old learners and also provides education for adult learners, with a wide range of courses. We have a very successful sports academy and generally good facilities across the college which provide specialist training.

I work in the Exams team and my role is to register, claim and maintain multiple courses through different boards. I am personally responsible for all BTEC, NVQ and OCN courses. I also help with the running of the A-Level and GCSE exams. This means that I register every student with the relevant examining board and make sure that, throughout the year, any student who needs withdrawing or changing in anyway, is facilitated for this. At the end of their course, I claim for these students and make sure that they get their certificate and that, if they are looking to go to university, everything is arranged for them to achieve that.

Description of my Problem

The problem I am currently facing is the certainty of having to run at least 2 online exams for all BTEC students studying at our college. This has been made aware to us within the last 2 months.

This is thoroughly widespread throughout the college as the majority of our 16-19 year old students at our college are studying a BTEC course. This equates to around 2000 students. These exams will be run during most days of the week throughout the year so we are able to enable every student to sit the exam. These have to be completed between the months of September to April.

This new task will affect the Exams Department, Enrolments, Registry and IT. Exams will be affecting in that we will have to book, arrange and invigilate the exams. Registry will be required to find and book us rooms with adequate IT facilities. Enrolments will face an affect in their numbers of students coming into the college, as BTEC is a vocational course, students may be unsettled by the prospect of exams. IT will be expected to install and maintain any software required for the tests.

By arranging these exams I am aiming to achieve the ability to run and arrange these exams so the students can gain their qualification. This is now a requirement of the board so achieving this would be what is expected. If there were no action taken, the students would not complete their qualification and therefore not able to move on to their future job or educational path. Also, the college would lose much of their annual funding.

Below is a chart, showing the affect of all students to BTEC funding ratio.

In terms of numbers, this shows that the amount of money brought in by all students is £18m and the amount brought by BTEC students is £5m. When considering the funding required by colleges, this is a large amount of money, which could possibly be missing from the college’s budget.

Possible Solutions

I looked at an overview of my problem, in the form of a fish diagram as below.

Travel Staff Room Bookings

Training staff Bigger workload on registry

Stress of running extra exams Rooms may not be appropriate

Staff time No guarantee of room being available BTEC exams for students in the next academic year

Task Enrolments IT

Based on the possibility of myself running every exam, I investigate the possible solutions, with the figures of the task in hand. I looked at the amount of students who are studying a BTEC qualification, compared to the amount of computers available to me throughout the college. I went to the online Edexcel BTEC website and gathered the number of students required. I then went to our registry department and asked how many computers there are available to be booked for exams. I found that there are 3379 BTEC students compared to the data given to me by Registry, which shows there are 64 computers available in 4 rooms, with the largest room holding 28 students. By acquiring this information, I am able to interpret the amount of exams I will have to run per academic year. I created a chart showing the number of computers compared to the available sessions throughout the year.

Using the total amount of students I previously discovered, I calculated how many students would need to be in each room throughout the year. I compared that to the possible amount of exams sat in each room throughout the year multiplying the capacity by the yearly room availability.

This shows me that the most effective method for me to run these exams would be to run most of them in Room 1 as the yearly capacity in terms of availability is 2688. The second most effective room would be Room 3, which has a yearly capacity of 1408, but requires more sessions.

Between the two most effective exam rooms, the total possible capacity for the months between September and April would be 4096 individual student exams. This is more than enough exams required, and also covers the possibility of students having to take re-sits. Reviewing this data has helped me decide that the best course to take for running these exams would be to keep them located in these two rooms only. This would minimise the travel between sites and the possibility of having an IT error. The smaller number of IT issues would be due to the greater emphasis on these specific rooms.

But considering the possibility of having outside invigilators, I wanted to find the numbers which could show if this would be more effective. I have created a chart below which shows the total amount of exam house required depending on the man power.

As expected, this shows that the more people who people with the exams, the less house are required for invigilation. This shows that one person would have to invigilate for 121 hours compared to only 40 housr total if spread between 3 people.


My initial option was to arrange, invigilate and run all of the exams myself. By doing this, I can make sure that all exams are run properly and effectively. I could then keep track of who has sat the exam in a real time basis which would be extremely helpful as I could arrange re-sits immediately with their tutor.

The problem with this initial proposal would be that, this is based on the exams being run solely by myself. If I look at the proposed amount of work I would be undertaking, I discover that this is a huge effort require by just one person, even more so considering the additional work of entering the students for the exams. Based on the availability of the rooms, the hours of the exams and the amount of students, one person would have to commit an obscene amount of their working time to complete the long term task.

After looking at this first option, I wanted to look at another method for which I could complete these exams. A possibility would be to employ extra invigilators from outside of the college to enable us to complete the in a quicker fashion. This would enable me to run more exams per day than the previously made proposal. I would also have more time to complete my tasks I was responsible for prior to these exams taking place.

The downside to this would be the college having to spend additional money on hiring the extra staff. After investigating whether this would be a possibility, I found that our department under spends on invigilation each year and that help would be a possibility. This opens up another solution, which would be to use both proposals and use invigilators as much as possible, along with doing them myself.

Summary of other options

1. Complete invigilation by outside staff and management by myself. This could be a possibility, as this would totally remove the issue of time for arranging and setting up the exams, leaving the running of the exams to the invigilators. This also has the downside of more money coming from the college to pay for the exams.

2. Proposing to change the courses for equivalent courses with another board. The introduction of exams into this course it an Edexcel proposal only. This means that there is a possibility of changing the courses to another board to enable us to avoid having to run exams. This would be an extremely large transition though.

3. Arranging one large end of year exam session during a 2-week period. We could implement an A-Level type end of year exam session where all exams required are sat within the period of 2 weeks. This would keep time down to a minimal and enable students to complete coursework and exams separately. There could be a problem with arranging for a large room to be set up with enough computers.

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