Autumn exams: what financial support is available?

All you need to know about the DfE exam support service and the funding your college or training provider could be entitled to

Kate Parker

Autumn exam series: What financial support is available?

Colleges and training providers can apply for financial support to put on autumn exams, the Department for Education has confirmed.

In April, the Association of Colleges warned that a full autumn exam series would be a “costly and unnecessary diversion for students, centres and awarding organisations”.

But in new guidance published this week, the DfE confirmed learners would be able to sit exams in autumn 2021 and spring 2022, and said colleges could claim for four different types of support.

What support is available?

Exam fee deficit claim

Autumn exam fees minus summer rebate. As last year, do not claim for this category if your summer exam fee rebates or summer fee reductions exceed or are equal to your autumn exam fees.

Additional venue capacity claim

Cost of autumn additional venue capacity.

Additional invigilators claim

Cost of autumn invigilators minus summer 2021 savings on invigilation.

Additional invigilator training claim

Cost of training new invigilators required to resource autumn 2021 exam series.


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More: Autumn exam series a 'costly and unnecessary diversion'


Who is eligible?

To be eligible to receive support, colleges and independent training providers must be entering students in at least one of the following qualifications:

  • GCSE, AS level and A level in autumn 2021
  • VTQ exams in autumn 2021
  • VTQ exams in spring 2022

Also in scope are: VTQs and other general qualifications at level 1 and 2, level 2 and level 3, where students received a teacher- assessed grade in summer 2021 and there is a scheduled assessment opportunity for the qualification in the autumn 2021 or spring 2022 series.

The guidance says that before applying for support, providers “should first establish whether you have capacity to accommodate exams using your existing venues and staff before booking alternative venues or invigilators”, and should consider “collaborative arrangements” with other schools and colleges in the same area. 

How can providers make a claim?

According to the guidance, the service claims process will open later in the year for schools and colleges to make claims for costs relating to exam fees, invigilators, invigilator training and alternative venues.

The claims process for invigilation and alternative venues will remain open into the spring term 2022 to cover some VTQ assessments taking place at that time that had not been available in the autumn term. 

Payments will be made from the ESFA, who can “refuse payment” or “require repayment for any claims that do not meet the criteria set out in this guidance”. The guidance says providers “should therefore ensure that you keep records of this expenditure and the related evidence for at least one year”.

Support for exam fees

The guidance says: “The DfE exam support service will provide financial support to schools and colleges to ensure that they do not incur a net loss from paying autumn fees. Similar to last year, this is once any rebates or credit notes they receive for summer 2021 exams and assessments have been taken into account.”

The fees eligible for rebate are those incurred for entering students in autumn 2021 for Ofqual-regulated GQs or VTQs, or in spring 2022 to sit VTQs for which they received teacher-assessed grades in summer 2021.

However, the guidance says that providers should use the rebates, fee discounts or credit notes on summer exam fees from your awarding organisation to cover the costs of the autumn exams. Where autumn fees are not covered by rebates, the DfE will fund the difference.

Colleges must keep evidence of the autumn fees and summer fee rebates or credit notes received for inspection. Examples include: 

  • Exam fees evidence examples (GCSEs, AS/A levels, VTQs only).
  • Credit notes for rebates issued by awarding organisations, relating to summer 2021 exams. 
  • For the period October 2021 to March 2022, assessment or exam entry fee invoices issued (or both) by awarding organisations. 

Support for alternative exam venues

The DfE will provide financial support to providers who need to find alternative venues to run the autumn exams where it isn’t possible to run them in their own venues without disruption to study.

Providers will need to “retain evidence” to support claims, for example by sourcing a range of quotes. It adds: “When booking rooms for over 100 candidates, you must get three quotes to confirm value for money and submit these as part of your claim. You will also need to provide an explanation should you not select the lowest quote.”

Other evidence includes final invoices for venue hire, invoices for cleaning or set-up (where necessary), and quotes for venue costs over DfE’s illustrative costs.

The guidance sets out “reasonable rates” and says the DfE would not generally expect costs to fall outside these ranges unless there are exceptional circumstances. It adds that the DfE reserves the right to fund on the basis of the rates shown below if this evidence is not provided.

Venue rates per day outside London

Candidate numbers per venue Typical rate Maximum rate
1 to 15 £450 £650
Up to 30 £700 £1,650
31 to 60 £900 £1,650
61 to 100 £2,000 £2,500

Venue rates per day in London

Candidate numbers per venue Typical rate Maximum rate
1 to 15 £750 £950
Up to 30 £2,000 £3,000
31 to 60 £2,500 £3,000
61 to 100 £2,500 £3,500

The guidance adds: “Claims for alternative venue costs can include associated set-up and cleaning costs for the venue where necessary. This extends to normal set-up and cleaning costs required under the terms of the venue hire. It does not extend to purchasing additional materials such as screens or booths. The service will not provide funding if you are using your own premises to facilitate exams. Cleaning or set-up required for your own premises is also not covered.”

Support for invigilation

The DfE exam support service will provide financial support to schools and colleges to book invigilators for the autumn exams. However, providers will only be able to claim back the deficit if autumn invigilation costs exceed the amount of money saved on invigilation in summer 2021. 

The guidance says: “In many cases, schools and colleges will already have a pool of invigilators available to use for the autumn exams. In some instances, however, they may not have sufficient invigilators available. Schools and colleges should make local arrangements to book additional invigilators if required. You will be able to claim back autumn exam invigilation costs which exceed the savings made on summer invigilation.”

Providers need to keep records of the exams administered and may be asked to provide an explanation if claiming for high invigilator-to-student ratios.

The claim will be calculated by adding summer 2021 and autumn 2021 invigilator costs, less usual invigilation costs from 2019.

Evidence retained should therefore include:

  • Records of any actual summer 2021 invigilation costs – for example, all payments made to invigilators in relation to Covid-19.
  • Evidence of the centre’s usual summer invigilation costs (where applicable) – the DfE would expect this to be costs of invigilation for 2019.
  • Records of autumn 2021 invigilation costs.

Support for invigilator training

The DfE exam support service will provide financial support to schools and colleges to train invigilators to support the safe and secure delivery of exams.

Funding will only be available for new invigilators: not for retraining or refresher training for those already trained and need to top up their qualifications before being able to invigilate the autumn exams. 

The DfE says colleges need to evidence value for money, and says that the Exams Office provides online training for up to 200 invigilators per centre for a £245 annual membership fee. 

It adds: “If you need to spend more than this, we would need to see evidence of the reason for doing so (for example, why the Exams Office service (or an equivalent comparative offering) is not appropriate). 

“Schools and colleges should check whether they are already members of the Exams Office as they should then already be eligible to receive this service.”

Evidence needed includes:

  • Records of autumn 2021 invigilation training costs for training new invigilators (for example, a payment made for online training).
  • Evidence that the new invigilators you have trained have provided invigilation services in your centre during the autumn exams.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a schools and colleges content producer.

Find me on Twitter @KateParkerTes

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