Operational Communications Officer – Standards and Testing Agency (Apprenticeship) – Department for International Development – Darlington

Department for International Development

Job summary

We encourage applications from a diverse range of candidates 

At DfE, we are proud of the commitment we make to diversity and inclusion and of the progress we have made. We have active & vibrant staff networks, special leave policies and workplace adjustments put in place for those who need them. We are continuing to build a diverse DfE, in an inclusive environment which nurtures and realises potential in all, at all levels. 

The Standards and Testing Agency (STA) is an executive agency of the Department for Education (DfE). Our purpose is to provide effective testing, assessment and moderation to monitor pupils’ progress throughout primary school and improve numeracy and literacy. This is a major departmental priority.

The EO Operational Communications Officer role sits within STA’s Operational Communications team. We develop and deliver guidance and information to relevant stakeholders in the education sector, including schools, teachers and local authorities, to ensure the successful delivery of primary school assessments to support STA’s goals.

Our operational team is separate from DfE’s central communication division, although we work with DfE colleagues to ensure our operational communications support DfE’s wider strategy and STA’s key messages reach DfE’s broader audiences, including parents, where appropriate.

This is a permanent position which includes a Business Administration Level 3 Apprenticeship. Once the apprenticeship is completed (typically within 18 months) employment will continue.

Job description

As an Operational Communications Officer at STA, you will provide essential support to channel managers, which includes:

  • supporting the development and evaluation of new and updated STA web content (such as guidance documents, content pages and interactive content on GOV.UK/STA) – ensuring content is well-structured, user-centred, accessible, consolidated and future-proof
  • supporting the delivery and evaluation of STA’s external mailings , which includes regular email updates to primary schools and local authorities, as well as ad-hoc emails and surveys
  • providing support with the production and publication of STA’s videos to help explain assessment procedures and new policy developments, including working with STA’s video production supplier and DfE’s Comms and Social Media teams (to promote the video content across STA’s and DfE’s channels) and providing evaluation support
  • producing and maintaining the team’s annual and daily comms planners , which map out all of STA’s planned communications and existing live content, to ensure all work is on track to be updated and published on time
  • managing or assisting with bespoke ad-hoc projects , such as SharePoint or intranet reviews, gathering insights to improve engagement with our stakeholders, and working with teams across wider DfE and government to share insights and best practice
  • You will also have some account management responsibilities, which include:

  • building great relationships with functional teams across STA to effectively plan and deliver communications
  • working with functional teams to develop user-centred and accessible content for the appropriate channels, including offering professional advice and training
  • providing final ‘Comms Checks’ for communications to ensure all STA communications are of the highest quality, receive the appropriate levels of sign-off and meet the relevant legal and channel requirements
  • Our work is fast-paced and high-profile, and our materials reach a large, busy and critical audience, including primary school teachers, headteachers and local authorities. Our work therefore needs to be 100% accurate and delivered on time, to ensure our audiences are able to meet their statutory responsibilities.

    You will be expected to work flexibly across the team. We regularly review responsibilities to ensure they match individuals’ skills, interests and career ambitions. We will provide you with the appropriate time and opportunities to get the relevant experience and evidence required to complete the Business Administration Level 3 Apprenticeship.

    Full comms training and support will also be available to the successful candidate, so you don’t need to be an existing comms expert, but we expect you to be able to demonstrate the relevant transferable skills and interests outlined in the essential criteria below.

    Person specification

    To meet our essential criteria , applicants must have the following attributes:

  • excellent written and verbal communication skills, with a keen eye for detail and the ability to edit or draft concise and accurate content using plain English
  • the ability to establish positive relationships and work with a diverse range of stakeholders to support the delivery of business outcomes
  • ability to develop good project planning and project management skills
  • an interest in communications, producing clear user-centred content, using the best channels to reach our audiences, and using data and statistics to evaluate and improve communications, user experiences and business outcomes
  • Apprenticeship eligibility requirements

    As this role includes completion of the Business Administration Level 3 Apprenticeship, please also check the eligibility requirements below using the apprenticeship standard:

  • You must have lived in the UK for 3 years prior to apprenticeship start date and not be undertaking another apprenticeship at the same time.
  • You must not already have a substantial amount of the skills and knowledge that is covered in the contents of the apprenticeship standard.
  • You must not have already worked in a similar role, or your previous learning, and/or work experience covers the contents (Knowledge, Skills, and Behaviours) of the apprenticeship standard.
  • Please do not apply if:

  • You already have all the skills and knowledge that is covered in the contents of the apprenticeship standard.
  • You have already worked in a similar role, or your previous learning, and/or work experience covers the contents (Knowledge, Skills, and Behaviours) of the apprenticeship standard.
  • You have a degree (or equivalent) in Business Administration
  • Part of this apprenticeship is to complete a level 2 English and maths functional skills qualification. If you have already achieved GCSEs in English and maths at Level 4 (grade C) or equivalent or a higher grade, you will not need to complete the functional skills qualification.

    At the enrolment state, the individual’s eligibility will be checked by the training provider.


    Applicants currently holding a permanent post in the Civil Service should note that, if successful, their salary on appointment would be determined by the Department’s transfer / promotion policies.
    As a member of the DfE, you will be entitled to join the highly competitive Civil Service Pension Scheme, which many experts agree is one of the most generous in the UK.

    You will have 25 days leave, increasing by 1 day every year to a maximum of 30 days after five years’ service. In addition, all staff receive the King’s Birthday privilege holiday and 8 days’ bank and public holidays.

    As an organisation, which exists to support education and lifelong learning, we offer our staff excellent professional development opportunities.

    We offer flexible working arrangements, such as job sharing, term-time working, flexi-time and compressed hours. 

    Most DfE employees will be working a hybrid pattern, spending at least 60% of their time in an office or work setting. Changes to these working arrangements are available in exceptional circumstances, but must be agreed with the line manager and in line with the requirements of the role. 

    Travel to your primary office location will not be paid for by DfE, but costs for travel to an office which is not your main location will be covered. 

    Things you need to know

    Selection process details

    Step 1: Application

    As part of the online application, you will be asked to provide evidence of your Previous Skills and Experience . This section should evidence how your previous skills and experience align to the  essential criteria outlined in the job description. Please limit this section to a maximum of 1,000 words.

    Submit your application by 23:55pm on Monday 20 March.

    Step 2: Sift

    A panel will assess your previous skills and experience, based on the essential criteria against the CV and statement

    Please note the panel will not continue reading beyond the maximum word count of 1,000 words. We will only take into consideration the evidence you provided within the maximum word count and any skills and experience mentioned thereafter cannot be taken into consideration.

    Those who meet the minimum pass mark for this vacancy will progress to interview. We reserve the right to increase the pass mark if we receive a high volume of applications.

    Step 3: Interview and assessment

    For this stage, we will invite you to one of our offices in early April for a short proof-reading exercise followed by an interview.

    During the interview, the panel will ask you experience-based questions to explore in detail how you meet the essential criteria.

    Other Information 

    We reserve the right to raise the minimum pass mark in the event of a high volume or strong field of candidates. 

    Please be aware that this role can only be worked in the UK from the location options provided and not from overseas.

    The government is committed to supporting apprenticeships, enabling people to learn and progress in a role whilst earning. We want to monitor the number of people who have completed apprenticeships who are now applying to progress further in their career and are asking this question to all candidates, on all vacancies. You will be asked a question as part of the application process about any previous apprenticeships you have completed. Your response to this question will not affect your application and it is not a requirement of the role to have completed a previous apprenticeship.

    For this role the department would not consider sponsoring a Certificate of Sponsorship/visa. Please note we are unable to offer advice on any Visa and Immigration cases.

    If successful and transferring from another Government Department a criminal record check maybe carried out.

    In order to process applications without delay, we will be sending a Criminal Record Check to Disclosure and Barring Service on your behalf. However, we recognise in exceptional circumstance some candidates will want to send their completed forms direct. If you will be doing this, please advise Department of Education of your intention by emailing stating the job reference number in the subject heading.

    Department for Education do not cover the cost of travel to your interview/assessment unless otherwise stated.

    A reserve list may be held for a period of 6 months from which further appointments can be made.

    Candidates will be posted in merit order based upon location preference. Where more than one location is advertised you will be asked to state your preferred location.

    New entrants are expected to join on the minimum of the pay band.

    Applicants who are successful at interview will be, as part of pre-employment screening subject to a check on the Internal Fraud Database (IFD). This check will provide information about employees who have been dismissed for fraud or dishonesty offences. This check also applies to employees who resign or otherwise leave before being dismissed for fraud or dishonesty had their employment continued. Any applicant’s details held on the IFD will be refused employment.

    Terms and conditions of candidates transferring from ALBs and NDPBs

    Bodies that are not accredited by the Civil Service Commission and are not able to advertise at Across Government on Civil Service jobs will be treated as external new starters and will come into DfE on modernised terms and conditions with a salary at the band minimum.

    Bodies that are accredited by the Civil Service Commission but do not have civil service status will be offered modernised terms and will not have continuous service recognised for leave or sickness benefits. Salaries should be offered at band minimum, but there is some flexibility where this would cause a detriment to the individual.

    Bodies that are accredited by the Civil Service Commission and do have Civil Service status will be treated as OGD transfers. Staff appointed on lateral transfer will move on to pre-modernised DfE terms (unless they were on modernised terms in their previous organisation). Staff appointed on promotion will move on to modernised DfE terms. Staff will transfer over on their existing salary (on lateral transfer) and any pay above the DfE pay band maximum will be paid as a mark time allowance. Staff moving on promotion will have their salaries calculated using the principles set out in the attached OGD transfer supplementary information.

    Reasonable adjustment

    If a person with disabilities is put at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person, we have a duty to make reasonable changes to our processes. If you need a change to be made so that you can make your application, you should:

    Contact Department of Education via soon as possible before the closing date to discuss your needs.

    Complete the “Assistance required” section in the “Additional requirements” page of your application form to tell us what changes or help you might need further on in the recruitment process. For instance, you may need wheelchair access at interview, or if you’re deaf, a Language Service Professional.

    Any move to Department for Education (DfE) will mean you will no longer be able to carry on claiming childcare vouchers. This includes moves between government departments. You may however be eligible for other government schemes, including Tax-Free Childcare. Determine your eligibility at

    Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.


    Successful candidates must undergo a criminal record check.People working with government assets must complete checks.

    Nationality requirements

    This job is broadly open to the following groups:

  • UK nationals
  • nationals of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK
  • nationals of the Republic of Ireland
  • nationals from the EU, EEA or Switzerland with settled or pre-settled status or who apply for either status by the deadline of the
  • relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals working in the Civil Service
  • relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals who have built up the right to work in the Civil Service
  • certain family members of the relevant EU, EEA, Swiss or Turkish nationals
  • Working for the Civil Service

    The sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

    We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission’s .The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.The Civil Service also offers a Redeployment Interview Scheme to civil servants who are at risk of redundancy, and who meet the minimum requirements for the advertised vacancy.

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