The UK's largest schools exam board has said today that it will be unable to furlough teachers who mark its exams this summer, or provide any payment.
In an email to staff who had signed up to mark papers this summer before the cancellation of exams, Mark Bedlow, the AQA board's interim chief executive, said it was not possible to pay summer examiners without "millions of pounds being unavailable to return to schools and colleges".
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Mr Bedlow also said that due to the way summer examiners are contracted by AQA, they would not be eligible for the government's furlough scheme.
"I know it's been an uncertain time so I'm glad that I'm now able to clarify our position," his email said.
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"Our associates [examiners] play a vital role in the exam system, so we want to support you where we can – but we've also promised to return any savings as a result of the cancellation of exams this summer to schools and colleges."
Mr Bedlow said that as AQA examiners were ineligible for furlough, the board had had to make "some very difficult decisions".
A spokesperson for AQA told Tes that examiners had not been contracted by AQA by the date needed to qualify for furlough.
An AQA spokesperson said: "We’ve been looking into whether it was possible to furlough our examiners, but sadly they’re not eligible – so instead we’re making payments to our senior examiners who work with us throughout the year.
“After a lot of thought, we made the difficult decision that we can’t justify making payments to all our examiners who won’t need to do any work for us this summer. We have tens of thousands of examiners, so even a small payment to each of them would have come to millions of pounds that we wouldn’t be able to return to schools.”
The board said the cost to schools and colleges of paying examiners was likely to be £7 million.
At the beginning of May, OCR and Cambridge International, both run by Cambridge Assessment, offered examiners furlough or an ex-gratia taxable payment of £250.
Edexcel has said it will pay senior examiners the equivalent of around 80 per cent of their assessment-related earnings from May to August last year but has not revealed how much the payment will be. It will not be using the government furlough scheme.
A spokesperson for Pearson said: "We highly value the contribution of the examiners usually involved in delivering the examination series and realise that the current situation may be causing uncertainty.
"We are working hard to define the detail of the approach to providing students with grades this summer and to fully understand how this impacts on all aspects of our fees and associated costs.
"As we understand what this means for the remuneration of our examiners we are sharing updates with them directly first."