Surpass Conference 2020 – Day 1 in brief

Surpass Community at the Surpass Conference

Wow, what a start to our first virtual conference! Thanks to everyone who tuned in yesterday, asked questions, and got some insightful conversations flowing!

There’s still plenty to come during the rest of the week, but here’s a few highlights from day 1 of the 2020 Surpass Conference.

David Price OBE opened the event by exploring the ‘learning moments’ from the recent problems with exam delivery and results, before thinking about how we maintain the momentum of change we’re currently experiencing.

He asked whether standardised exams are still suitable in a non-standard world, suggesting we need to turn parents and employers into advocates for change to ensure that the opportunities the crisis has presented don’t go to waste.

‘This is our opportunity to do things differently, that we thought we couldn’t do before… you’ve only got to look at the way in which schools and colleges were able to flip almost overnight to remote learning, to see that blended learning…is not as difficult as we thought it was going to be.’

David Price OBE

David gave an overview of some initiatives that are already underway around the world which are changing the landscape of learning and assessment, before giving some suggestions of what we can do to maintain the momentum.  

View a clip from David’s keynote presentation.

Andy McAnulla, President of BTL Surpass and Sonya Whitworth, BTL’s Managing Director then gave a roundup of the year and how the company has adapted to recent events. Highlights included the successful transition to remote working, the appointment of some new senior roles within the Surpass team, and several prestigious award wins, including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

Sonya discussed how the lockdown affected test numbers, and how BTL has worked closely with the community to implement remote proctoring for many organisations, and rapidly scale up this service to meet demand, revealing that 30 million tests have now been delivered using Surpass.

Community Stories on the first day of the conference came from Graeme Clark at SQA, and Dave Mellor from AlphaPlus.

Graeme offered an insight into the effect of the pandemic on the Scottish education system, asking ‘what can these times say to us going forward, especially in what the use of technology for assessment and learning may actually look like?’

Graeme discussed the impact, threats and opportunities presented by the pandemic, including the impact of e-learning on students and threats posed due to the inequalities between the technology ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

Despite recent events having an obvious major impact, Graeme also took the opportunity to take a positive view of the opportunities the last few months have created for the way we approach learning and assessment going forward.

‘What is clear is we need to align closely the whole notion of learning, teaching and assessment…from digital learning approaches, formative assessment that integrates with the learning, that leads easily and without barrier to summative assessment delivery ’

Graeme Clark, SQA

Dave Mellor, Deputy Director of Assessment at AlphaPlus then shared his experiences of assessment this summer, answering the question ‘which school assessment models have been impacted most during the pandemic?

Dave discussed the different approaches that have been taken around the world, either taking the decision to cancel exams, or finding ways to adapt them, giving some examples of how this has been handled in different countries.

Dave also explored whether it would have been possible to have made the switch to remote test delivery in England, calling out the challenges presented.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Surpass Conference without some interaction from the audience, and there were many excellent comments and discussions happening both in the live chat to the side of the stream, and in the delegate ‘drop-in lounge’, with presenters able to respond directly to many of the questions.

Recordings from the conference will be made available soon.

Don’t miss out – you can still register for the conference and catch day 2 and day 3 as it happens, by heading over to