Exams 2021: Changes may have cost colleges £50m

Awarding bodies need to be transparent and commit to rebating fees wherever they have made a net overall saving, says AoC’s David Hughes

Kate Parker

Exams: Changes may have cost colleges £50m

Changes to assessment this year may have cost colleges in England an additional £50 million, the Association of Colleges (AoC) has said today.

The AoC found that this year’s grading process has cost colleges around £50 per 16- to 18-year-old student and £20 per adult student on average. This equals £200,000 for a typical college and in excess of £50 million for the college sector as a whole.

One college said: “The TAG (teacher-assessed grades) system meant that, for A levels and GCSE English and maths, the college had to run its own exam-style assessments with all the associated work and materials required…There is also an emotional cost of many staff working through holidays to prepare assessment in line with regulatory requirements.”

Another added: “The additional workload and stress on staff has been considerable. Many have had to work longer hours or through half-term to meet the deadlines and requirements. There has also been considerable additional workload for data administrators and managers.”

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Awarding bodes must be ‘transparent and commit to rebating fees’

Last year, many awarding organisations provided rebates to the exam and qualification fees they charged to colleges in light of overall net cost savings they made. 

Today, David Hughes, chief executive of the AoC has written to awarding bodies to ask them to be “transparent and commit to rebating fees wherever they have made a net overall saving”.

He said: “College and awarding organisation staff have worked diligently and tirelessly to ensure that students have fair grades this year. It is clear, though, that a large part of the burden in achieving that has been with colleges, with an overall cost of over £50 million extra this year.

“Even in a normal year, our assessment system is expensive, but this year’s changes have taken a heavy toll on colleges and their staff, as our survey shows.”

Colleges said examples of additional tasks included: training; planning; communicating the changes to parents and students; running additional practical assessment sessions, including in holiday periods, to complete courses; additional reviews with students; exam administration; administrative support; support for work submission; downloading assessed work; additional pastoral support; additional marking; moderation; assembling of evidence and internal quality checks.

Tom Bewick, chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies, said: "Dealing with the pandemic has placed additional costs on the whole skills and exams system, including on awarding organisations who have had to respond to support centres and learners in unprecedented circumstances. The government has not always recognised the additional costs it has asked the system to take on.

"However, FAB’s members will always engage positively with their customers, including colleges, when it comes to ensuring contractual relationships are fair and represent good value. It is always for our members to engage individually in those discussions.”

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a schools and colleges content producer.

Find me on Twitter @KateParkerTes

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