The majority of school leaders in England want a rebate of at least 75% on exam fees following the cancellation of this summer’s GCSE and A-level exams, a survey suggests.
Nearly two in three (65%) heads say exam boards should apply a rebate of 75% or more to exam fees for qualifications this summer, according to the poll by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said it seems “reasonable” that schools should receive a rebate that is “commensurate” with the task of carrying out “an entire assessment process from scratch”.
The findings came as teachers across England are finalising decisions on their pupils’ GCSE and A-level grades after this summer’s exams were cancelled for the second year in a row.
Teachers are able to draw on a range of evidence when determining pupils’ grades this summer – including mock exams, coursework, and in-class assessments using questions provided by exam boards.
Schools and colleges across England have until June 18 to submit grades to the exam boards.
The ASCL poll, of more than 457 secondary school and college leaders in England at the end of May, suggests that 45% believe exam boards should apply a rebate of 75% to exam fees for this summer’s qualifications, and a further 20% favour a rebate of more than 75%.
The average GCSE in 2020 cost £42.02 and the average A-level was £101.44, according to the ASCL.
Among survey respondents, the average total bill for all exam fees (GCSEs, AS levels, A-levels and vocational qualifications) this summer is £116,967 for schools with a sixth form, and £75,238 for schools without a sixth form.
Mr 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.”
A spokeswoman for Pearson, which owns UK exam board Edexcel, 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.
“Exam fees don’t just cover exams – they cover the delivery of each qualification over a two-year period from first teaching to successful completion of the course and assessment.”
She added: “We want to be able to confirm our rebate amount with schools and colleges as soon as possible and we will do so following outstanding policy decisions from the Department for Education.”
A spokesman for OCR exam board said: “As we’ve always 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 also be offering an extra exam series in the autumn.
“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.
“In the interests of transparency, we will explain clearly in our communications how we’ve calculated this year’s rebate.”