After many phone calls, re-reading the new policies sent by my examining board and armed with laminated signs, blu-tac, antibacterial spray, mask and visor, I set off for north London one day last July. I was surprised at how nervous I felt at venturing into the unknown, to face the big wide world that had changed so much since the beginning of March. What with Lockdown 1, as it became, and then staying close to home under the eased summer restrictions, this journey was the furthest I had driven for months. Also, I was worried that I would forget the procedures for Covid on top of all the other examining policies, so in preparation I typed a check-list to use when I got to my examination venue. To my relief, the centre co-ordinator was welcoming and organised, which was just as well, as there seemed to be several other examiners and an unceasing flow of candidates. As it was busy, I was left to my own devices, wiping down the table and chairs, putting up my laminated notices such as, ‘chair of knowledge’, ‘props table’, ‘public speaking topics’. I hoped these would help the candidates know where to go in the room most of the time, although some are very keen to grab the first chair they see. Opening and closing the door became a ritual action involving door wedges, wiping handles and standing well back. I was lucky that day, as I had a large room and could open the windows, however the next day I was put in a small room which was far from ideal in normal times. At one point, during their speech, a candidate was advancing so close that I ended up with my chair and back against the wall and had to involuntarily put my hand up to stop them coming any closer.
We live and learn, and now, in additional to all the other books, bells and bags, my Covid kit includes coloured sticky tape to mark the floor in front of the desk. Chairs do not work, as they get moved and used before you notice. The other thing I learned during the autumn term was to wear layers including coat, warm boots, scarf and to take a hot drink, as the need to keep windows open for air circulation meant the temperature was regularly hovering below 18 degrees. Not too bad when you are moving around, but sitting still all day writing, it feels very cold. On one icy day, at a session in a school theatre, the temperature was a constant 14 degrees, not helped by the heating breaking down that morning.
As time has gone on, all the teachers and centre co-ordinators have done their utmost to make things as safe and as easy as possible and I have been so impressed with their efficiency and efforts to make us, as examiners feel safe. They regularly thank us for coming and say how the candidates are both appreciative and excited about being able to achieve something after all their hard work and previous delays.
It has been a nightmare for teachers to keep re-arranging the examination entries and wondering which date is realistic to book. Over the past few months, we have all learned to take each day as it comes and adapt quickly to new situations, making the best of it, even getting used to the cold. Let us hope that there are easier, safer and happier times ahead.