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Teaching & Education careers

Education Regulation: Examining, Inspection & Policy

What does education regulation involve?

All education in the UK is regulated. The policies, procedures and processes, which determine how state-funded institutions, independent schools, universities, further education colleges and other learning services are run, are all directly affected by the government, governing bodies and regulatory authorities.

The work done by exam boards, education inspection bodies, governmental departments, and non-governmental teaching associations, keeps the education sector ticking. They maintain high standards, advance learning and make sure education policies meet the needs of the learning community.

What options do I have to get into education regulation?

First things first, it is important to note that it is highly unlikely that you will be working for one of these organisations at an entry level (unless you begin in a general administrative post). The people that have any amount of authority or responsibility when it comes to examining, inspection and policy in the education sector, tend to have substantial teaching experience, or have entered this area as a civil servant. 

The UK’s official exam boards (AQA, OCR, Edexcel, WJEC, CCEA and SQA) are responsible for setting examinations, marking examinations and developing new qualifications for schools, further education colleges and other learning centres. These organisations work alongside the government and other education authorities to play an integral part in defining and developing the national curriculum.

In order to maintain education standards, institutions need to be regularly inspected. This process of quality assurance is carried out by three major organisations in the UK: Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills), the ISC (Independent Schools Council) and the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education).

These organisations regulate and inspect all kinds of teaching environments, in order to achieve excellence in the care and education of learners across the UK. They carry out hundreds of inspections every week and ensure that education services are effective and represent value for money.

The ISC only inspects independent schools and the QAA only inspects higher education institutions. Ofsted, however, inspects all kinds of institutions and services, from state schools, pupil referral units, and further education colleges, to child-minders, fostering agencies and prison education schemes.

All education institutions are influenced by the governmental policies and the work of teachers unions. The Department for Education (DfE), the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), the NASUWT (the largest teacher’s union in the UK) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) all play an integral role in affecting the future of the UK’s education. These organisations make key decisions and introduce initiatives that aim to develop and improve the education system and the quality of the teaching workforce across the UK.

What roles are necessary in education regulation?

Exam boards employ qualified (or sometimes still qualifying) teachers to conduct their actual marking, examination and moderation activity. Following every examination period these people will be employed for a period of three to four weeks, to sit down and mark a large number of exam scripts on behalf of the exam board. The work can be repetitive and extensive in scope.

However, it offers teachers more of an insight into the assessment process, enhances their own teaching methods and can allow them to earn a good extra income (often between £750 and £1000 for one examination period).

Many teachers do it on the side and some people do it whilst on sabbatical or between teaching jobs. These guys will initially attend marking training sessions, then mark scripts in accordance with pre-defined mark schemes, submit examples of marked scripts to principal examiners, and may even write short reports on specific aspects of the examinations.

Some exam boards expect their markers, examiners and moderators to have at least three years teaching experience and specific expertise in the area of academic study that they are marking.

However, some other exam boards allow NQTs (Newly Qualified Teachers), and even PGCE students to apply! This could be a great way to boost your experience, career prospects and your wallet as a young, budding teacher.

Prolific teachers that develop a wealth of marking, examining and moderating experience may eventually be permanently hired by exam boards as principal or chief examiners.

Principal examiners set question papers and then monitor the standards of the marking being done. Chief examiners supervise principal examiners and ensure that the entire examination and coursework of a subject meets the proposed standards.  

Exam boards will also employ executives to drive forward their organisation’s strategy and influence external relations. These guys also play an integral role in influencing nationwide education policies. Furthermore, exam boards employ people in support roles such as printing, logistics, marketing, finance and HR.

Different institutions are inspected by different inspectors from different organisations. Most independent schools are inspected by inspectors working on behalf of the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI); universities are inspected by the QAA inspection team; and all other institutions are inspected by Ofsted’s HMIs (Her Majesty’s Inspectors) or AIs (Additional Inspectors).

These guys all tend to observe teaching activities, conduct interviews with teachers, parents and pupils, analyse and evaluate specific pieces of academic work, and then put together detailed reports and appraisals.

Most inspectors have had some level of seniority in teaching or academic lecturing professions before, and must go through a specific training course to be employed by these organisations.

Educational policy work is carried out within government departments, such as the Department for Education, by politicians (who are elected and not hired) and civil servants.

To get into this area of legislative work you will need to apply to be a civil servant and choose to specialise in the education sector. For more information on these careers, check out the Public Sector: Education & Learning subsector now!

Other organisations which have a profound influence on education policy are teachers unions (the NUT and the NASUWT). However, representatives and employees of these unions tend to be ex-teachers that have been elected by unions to take on these exciting, influential positions.

Are you assessing the merits of a career in education regulation as we speak? Are you inspecting this article with a fine-toothed comb and picking out where grammar and punctuation could be just that little bit better (A for effort, A* for style, A*** for downright brilliant content – aww, thanks guys!). If so then a career in education regulation could be the one for you!