Schools want 75% rebate on this summer’s exam fees

As reported by BBC news, school and college leaders in England want a rebate of at least 75% on this year’s exam fees, a survey has found

This year’s GCSE and A-level results will be decided by teachers, after summer exams were cancelled in January because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly two in three (65%) head teachers surveyed by the Association of School and College Leaders said exam boards should offer a 75% rebate this year. Boards say they still need to cover costs but will pass on any savings.

The call comes as teachers are finalising decisions on their pupils’ GCSE and A-level grades, after exams were cancelled for the second year in a row. Schools and colleges across England have until 18 June to submit candidates’ grades to the exam boards.

ASCL boss Geoff Barton said it was “reasonable” schools should receive a rebate “commensurate” with the task of conducting “an entire assessment process from scratch”.

When deciding on their students’ final grades, teachers are able to use a range of evidence, such as mock exams, coursework and class assessments where they used questions provided by exam boards.

Of the more than 457 secondary school and college leaders in England surveyed at the end of May:

  • 45% believe exam boards should apply a rebate of 75% to exam fees for this summer’s qualifications
  • a further 20% want a rebate of more than 75%

Among those who responded, the average total bill for all exam fees (GCSEs, AS levels, A-levels and vocational qualifications) this summer was:

  • £116,967 for schools with a sixth-form
  • £75,238 for schools without a sixth-form

Barton said: “Last year, rebates of around 25% were given to schools and colleges – but our survey shows there is a real strength of feeling for something more significant this year.

“Last year, schools and colleges were asked to assess students on the basis of the work that had been completed prior to the lockdown in March – but this year, they have been asked to carry out an entire assessment process from scratch in the summer term.

“They have had to do all the marking, grading and quality assurance that would normally be carried out by exam boards – so it seems pretty reasonable that they should receive a rebate that is commensurate with this massive task.

“We understand that the exam boards have incurred costs such as managing an external quality assurance process but it will be crucial that they set out very clearly and publicly an itemised list of their costs together with the resulting rebate that will be paid to centres – and that they do this as soon as possible.”

An AQA board spokesman said it was another “unique and challenging summer”, with the education sector “having to work harder than normal to make sure students receive the same qualifications as usual, in a very different way”.

“We know that teachers, exams officers and other school staff are playing a huge role in this,” he said.

“However, suggestions that exam boards have low costs this year, and that we’re therefore in a position to provide significantly bigger rebates than last year, are sadly based on misunderstandings.

“Even without exams, exam boards are having to work much harder than normal too – and this is why we still need to charge fees.”

A spokesperson for the OCR exam board, which is also a not-for-profit company, said: “We’ll pass back any savings to schools and colleges from the alternative arrangements in place this summer to deliver student results.

“Although we’re a not-for-profit organisation, we need to cover the costs involved in helping students to progress to their next phase and we’re investing substantial resources in IT systems, delivering assessment materials and guidance, in online training sessions, and in running quality-assurance checks.

“We’ll confirm any savings we can pass on in the form of a rebate as soon as we finalise the costs involved and we hope to do this in July.”

A spokeswoman for Pearson said: “We have no wish to benefit financially from the cancellation of exams and we will pass any savings from the changes back to schools.

“We know that schools’ budgets are stretched and that teachers are working incredibly hard to support this year’s assessments in what is another very difficult year and we will continue to do our best to support them.”

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