Information | 15.12.2022 | By Teresa Quail

Should invigilators have signing skills?

“As we come towards the start of mocks for GCSEs and A-Levels I have a conundrum:

Many of our students use Language Modifiers and Communication Professionals (BSL interpreters) in exams due to their needs.

Our school provides invigilators in each room along with our students and their BSL Interpreter.

The invigilators do not sign (we have tried to find those who do without luck) and we have been asked how they can invigilate when they cannot access the BSL or understand any of the communication between the Interpreter and the student.”


BATOD recommends a direct conversation with JCQ.

JCQ’s guidance for invigilators or access arrangements makes no reference to invigilators needing to be qualified in sign language. On use of communication professionals (CPs) the guidance simply states that invigilation may need to take place in a different room with a separate invigilator.

In the absence of any guidance/recommendations, the BATOD exam access arrangement working group does not think it is unreasonable if a school does not provide an invigilator qualified in BSL. Schools have to trust the integrity of the professionals involved. The invigilator is a colleague of whoever is performing the role of LM or CP and not there to check on a colleague’s work per se.

Let’s consider the purpose of the professionals present.

The invigilator has a multi-faceted role involving layout of room, keeping time, agreeing and setting up extra time frameworks, delivering the rubric of the exam, checking equipment, bags, calculators etc etc., providing time checks, controlling interruptions, answering queries and generally ensuring candidates satisfy the requirements of the exam. And more.

The LM/CP has a very different role, but can support the invigilator and perform the communication link for the invigilator with the candidate. Should the candidate voice a query about a particular question that the LM/CP is unsure about, the invigilator is there as a colleague to refer to. They should work together, making sure that the examination runs smoothly, that the requirements of the exam are maintained and that the candidate with the access arrangement has fair access to the questions. If the invigilator cannot sign, there is a colleague there to make sure the invigilator can understand any communication that is directed toward them. The one cannot work without the other. An inability to sign should not be a reason to question the presence of an invigilator.


BATOD does not feel it is a reasonable request for the schools to consider as the invigilator(s) probably would need to be a qualified interpreter to make competent judgements on whether a BSL interpretation was in breach of the guidelines. The school would be experiencing a significant additional cost.

In English exams, only the instructions/rubric can be signed so it could be considered reasonable for the invigilator to be seated near enough to the LM/CP to see which page they’re signing from ie is able to observe that there is no signing of questions or texts.