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Our biggest Surpass Conference yet! Thanks for joining us

Despite being a little different to how we thought it would be if you’d asked us this time last year, the virtual 2020 Surpass Conference was a resounding success, so firstly, we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who tuned in, got involved and engaged with the community over the 3 days. 

Like most other events this year, when lockdown came into force back in March, we had to give serious thought as to whether we’d be able to run the Surpass Conference as planned this year. Given the uncertainty around what the next few months would hold, we made the decision as early as possible to go virtual, as we knew that even if the situation had improved, much of our international community that make the conference what it is would be unable or unwilling to travel to a physical event. 

Making this tough decision early-on gave us the maximum amount of time possible to plan what turned out to be our biggest conference yet! 

With a fantastic in-house planning and technical team to ensure we made the most of the technology available and that the event ran as smoothly as possible, we were able to seamlessly host the event from both the UK and US offices, and accommodate hundreds of delegates across time zones. 

And of course, with the amazing lineup of industry thought-leaders and Surpass Community members to share their stories, our first virtual event was just as engaging as any previous year.  

Some key facts and figures from the event: 

  • Over 400 registered delegates 
  • Attendees from more than 150 organizations 
  • 9 hours of inspirational presentations 
  • 16 interactive online workshops 
  • 3 incredible keynotes 
  • Broadcast from 2 studios on 2 continents 

Although the format was different to previous years, there were many benefits to delivering the conference virtually, such as the ability for more members of community organizations to attend, greater reach and flexibility in bringing you industry-leading, high-profile presenters, and the opportunity to share even more content, like our community updates during the breaks. We’ll certainly be giving thought as to how we can incorporate what we’ve learnt into future events. 

We’ll take a short break from conference planning now, but we’ll be back next year, potentially with a mix of in-person and virtual events now we know what can be achieved! If you haven’t given us your feedback yet, keep an eye on your inbox for a link to share your thoughts via a short survey. 

Here’s a brief reminder about what the conference was all about. 

Day 1 

Co-hosting from our UK headquarters and US office, Tim Burnett and Abby Esten welcomed delegates before the packed program got underway.

David Price OBE opened with a keynote exploring the ‘learning moments’ from recent challenges with assessment delivery and issuing of results, before thinking about how we can maintain the current momentum of change. 

Andy McAnulla, President of BTL Surpass, and Sonya Whitworth, Managing Director of BTL, gave an overview of the year and how the comapny has adapted to recent events. 

We had a roundup of the enhancements made to Surpass in the last year, before getting a first look at the Surpass roadmap with members of the Surpass team.

Community Stories from Graeme Clark (SQA) and Dave Mellor (AlphaPlus) gave an insight into the effect of the pandemic on UK and European exam systems. 

Day 2 

Harry Patrinos gave a keynote presentation on the true cost of school closures as a result of COVID-19, with some alarming statistics about the predicted long-term impact. 

Dr Lori Severino and Dr Mary Jean Tecce DeCarlo from Drexel University shared their research and work to develop a much needed tool for the assessment of reading comprehension ability. 

Amanda Dainis, CEO of Dainis and company discussed validity in exam development, from both in-person and remote perspectives. 

Day 3 

Liberty Munson from Microsoft delivered the final keynote, exploring the opportunities advances in technology present for the future of assessment. 

Our final Community Story came from Romana Moss of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, who gave an insight into the disruption caused by COVID-19 on plans to roll out computer-based testing, and the lessons learned from a rapid implementation of online proctoring. 

If you’ve got any thoughts about what you’d like to see at next year’s Surpass Conference, or maybe you’d like to present, contact

You can catch up on all of this year’s inspirational content over on the conference website now. 

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