Majority of school and college leaders call for at least 75% rebate on exam fees

Nearly two-thirds of headteachers and principals have called for a rebate of 75% or more on exam fees following the cancellation of this summer’s public exams and the responsibility for assessing students in A-levels, GCSEs and other qualifications shifting to schools and colleges.
The Association of School and College Leaders conducted a survey of 457 headteachers and principals in England in which 45% of respondents said exam boards should apply a rebate of 75% to exam fees for summer 2021 GCSE, AS level and A level qualifications, and a further 20% favoured a rebate of more than 75%.
Public exams were cancelled by the government in January because of the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The government did not have a contingency plan in place which was ready to roll out and a system had to be hastily pieced together which entails schools and colleges assessing students on a range of evidence and submitting grades to the exam boards by a deadline of 18 June.
Exam costs are considerable. The average GCSE in 2020 cost £42.02 and the average A-level was £101.44. The cost to a school or college will vary according to the number of students and what qualifications it provides. Among respondents to our survey, 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.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, 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.”

We asked the following question of respondents.
Q, What level of rebate should awarding bodies apply to exam fees for
summer 2021 GCSE/ AS level/ A level qualifications (as applicable to your
centre) in light of the cancellation of public exams?
  % Number
No rebate is required 0.00% 0
25% rebate 1.75% 8
50% rebate 32.60% 149
75% rebate 45.08% 206
More than 75% rebate 19.69% 90
Don't know 0.88% 4
TOTAL   457
Our survey was conducted from 26 to 28 May by sending a survey link to 3,189 headteachers and principals in England. The majority (81%) of the 457 respondents were from state-funded mainstream secondary schools, with (12%) from independent schools and the remainder from colleges and other providers.