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Exam chief: 'deal to be done' on lower fees

The head of one of England's big three exam boards says there is a "deal to be done" on cheaper exam fees if schools come together and negotiate in groups.

The offer from Mark Dawe, OCR chief executive, will be welcomed by heads with increasingly tight budgets who have been alarmed by the escalating costs of exams.

Secondaries saw an 83 per cent increase in their exam bills between 200203 and 200809 and fees for English, maths, science, art and design, French and history GCSEs have all risen at nearly twice the rate of inflation in the past four years.

In December, Ofqual, the exams watchdog, advised schools to be "savvy" and work as consortia to bargain fees down.

Now, in his first interview as head of OCR, Mr Dawe has told The TES he would be open to such offers.

"If they are coming together and providing high volume there ought to be a deal to be done," he said. "It is better for us and therefore we can share that benefit. It is a win-win."

Brian Lightman, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, said: "That is the first offer of this kind I have heard and it sounds like something schools should talk about. It is absolutely essential that exam fees do go down."

The growth of academy chains and federations of schools may make group negotiations easier.

But heads of department like to make their own decisions on exams, which is why it could be worthwhile for OCR to get guarantees that groups of schools will all use its exams. It could also make providing support cheaper if they were geographically close together.

But Mr Dawe warned: "The margins on qualifications in OCR are pretty tight. There is not loads of money made."

Interview, pages 12-13.

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