In response to the coronavirus emergency and to comply with the government’s social distancing recommendations, the RSGB announced on 20 March that it would stop taking bookings for new amateur radio examinations. The Society expected that this suspension of exams would last for at least 12 weeks.
Since then, the RSGB has been exploring ways in which it can use the online exams platform to enable new people to access amateur radio and obtain their licence. Being able to pursue a hobby like amateur radio in this period of ‘lockdown’ is beneficial to mental health and wellbeing as well as to the future of amateur radio in the UK.
We have just completed some experiments to test the feasibility of providing our own remote invigilation service in conjunction with the TestReach application which have been using online for over two years. We tested the process rigorously, including setting people the challenge of trying to cheat and of moving out of the TestReach application to access other applications on the desktop. None of these attempts were successful.
Based on the success of those experiments, we are pleased to offer remote invigilation for online examinations and the Exam Department will be ready to receive online bookings from 6 April. Initially this will be for Foundation only and the invigilator will be Dave Wilson, or another experienced invigilator approved by the ESC. Our focus now is to enable new people to join amateur radio during these challenging times. However, in due course we will consider extending it to the other licence levels and allowing remote invigilation by club invigilators.
As part of this initiative we have decided that the practical assessments requirement is waived until further notice. This will enable us to continue to recruit members to the hobby in the coming months. We understand that this might be controversial but these are exceptional circumstances. In the same way that schools and universities are dropping some elements of assessment e.g. practical examinations, and some professional organisations are relaxing the rules for accrediting courses at this time, for the RSGB to relax its rules a little would not be out of line with what is going on in the wider community. Ofcom, the licensing body, does not insist on the practical assessments and it does support our remote invigilation plans.
We are adapting to the current situation and some of these decisions will be reviewed and perhaps modified further once the current crisis is over. We have published an FAQ document on our website which we hope will answer any detailed questions that tutors and candidates have about this new process: www.rsgb.org/exam-faq
Prof Tony Kent, G8PBH
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