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January OSCE sittings reduced

The number of OSCE assessments for January have been reduced as a result of a “significant” fall in examiner availability

student on steps

The College of Optometrists has reduced the number of OSCE sittings planned for January due to a “significant” drop in examiner availability.

Head of assessment for the College of Optometrists, Alastair Shaw, confirmed that a reduced OSCE will now take place on 27 and 28 January, and 3 February, for up to 75 candidates. OT understands that over 300 students were due to take the assessment.

Earlier in the month, the College of Optometrists confirmed that the assessments would be able to go ahead as planned, based on Government guidance which allows travel for medical appointments, education and training.

In a statement, the College of Optometrists has explained that, since then, the restrictions have had an impact on the personal and professional lives of examiners, who had previously been available when bookings opened, but are no longer able to attend.

Candidates who passed Stage Two earliest and have waited the longest have been prioritised for the available places.

Additional days have been added to the March OSCE to accommodate both the candidates who have been delayed, and those already booked to take their assessment that month.

In a statement, Mr Shaw said: “It goes without saying that this has been a difficult time for trainees, and we are acutely aware of the disruptive effect the pandemic has had on trainees, supervisors and employers.

“We are committed to helping trainees to progress as safely, and as quickly as possible, but due to the effects of the latest restrictions on the personal and professional lives of the people we depend on to help us run the OSCE, we are not able to do this on the scale that we had planned this January,” he continued.

Commenting on the news, pre-registration optometrist and AOP councillor, Luke McRoy-Jones, told OT: “This is obviously a disappointing development for the trainees affected by this announcement.”

While recognising that the disruption is a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions, Mr McRoy-Jones shared that it will “feel like a real blow” for trainees affected.

“It comes after many months of uncertainty, disruption and delay to their pre-registration period, and sitting the OSCE this month would’ve been welcomed by those trainees, who have been working incredibly hard in preparation,” he explained.

Speaking to OT, pre-registration optometrist, Shoaib Ilyas, echoed this sentiment.

While pre-registration optometrists could understand the situation is unprecedented for all involved, Mr Ilyas said there is still a level of frustration over how it was handled and described feeling “lead on and let down.”

The pre-registration optometrist told OT that, having confirmed that the January OSCEs would go ahead, they had expected an exam timetable on 8 January. Students were then offered opportunities to defer to the March OSCEs if they had concerns about travelling, Mr Ilyas said, and so he expected to receive the timetable on 13 January.

“On the 13th instead of what we were expecting, we got something different – an email surprising many of us, saying that we haven’t got a place for the January OSCEs and will have to wait until March,” Mr Ilyas explained. “Why wait until the moment students were sitting at their inboxes, waiting for that light at the end of the tunnel, to deliver this blow?”

Sharing a message for affected pre-registration optometrists, Mr McRoy-Jones advised: “At the AOP, we recognise the significant disruption caused to the Scheme for Registration during this time, and this may have caused further implications for some trainees. Please feel free to contact us if you have any concerns or questions.”

He added: “Continue to keep the faith up, be proud of the progress you have made in unprecedented times and keep preparing for your OSCE assessment.”

More information on the reduced January OSCE is available on the College website.