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Exam fees to rise by 11 per cent

Exam entry fees are to rise by up to 11 per cent this year, despite a promise from the Government's testing regulator six months ago that it would "look hard" at future price increases.

The cost of entering students for most GCSEs and A-levels will increase by more than the rate of inflation this academic year, adding millions of pounds to the examination bills of schools and colleges.

The rises come in spite of the fact that prices have already climbed above inflation since 2003, and the Government has given boards at least pound;32 million since 2004 to "modernise" their systems.

The largest increases this year are at the OCR board, where A-level fees are rising by 11 per cent, from pound;10.75 to pound;12 per module. This raises the cost of entering the full six-module exam, per pupil, by pound;7.50 to pound;72. In 2003, the comparable price was pound;56.

These price increases mean that the Cambridge-based board, which has traditionally had the lowest A-level and GCSE prices, is now only slightly cheaper than Edexcel and AQA for A-levels.

It now costs pound;12.90 to enter a student for an A-level module with Edexcel, a 3 per cent rise on last year, and pound;12.10 to do the same through AQA, a 4.3 per cent increase. Inflation is currently running at 3 per cent.

OCR has also raised the cost of its GCSEs, by pound;1.25 per pupil to Pounds 23. It is still the cheapest board, however. AQA's charges rose 4 per cent to pound;23.30, while Edexcel's levies are now pound;23.75, up 3 per cent.

A GNVQ with Edexcel now costs pound;105 per pupil, a 6 per cent rise on last year, and 53 per cent more than the pound;68.50 schools were paying in 2003. The course is in its last year.

Boards are also levying hefty fees for late entries and re-marks. Edexcel's charges notice warns that schools missing the deadline can be charged up to three times the exam's normal cost. OCR charges schools and colleges up to pound;70 to get a GCSE re-marked.

With fees for the most expensive exam - OCR's 12-unit vocational A-level - at pound;195.60, it is perhaps not surprising that in February The TES revealed schools arenow spending pound;120 million more on exam fees than they are on books.

The boards said that the price increases were necessary to fund improvements in their support services for schools and to invest in on-screen marking technology. An Edexcel spokeswoman said its increases were, on average, in line with inflation.

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