A group of leading multi-academy trust chief executives have warned that they will only pay fees from exam boards that are itemised so that they know exactly what they are paying for following the cancellation of this year's exams.
The warning comes in a letter sent by a group of multi-academy trust chief executives to Ofqual's interim chief regulator, Simon Lebus.
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The letter also demands answers over contingency planning for this summer's cancelled exams and accuses the regulator and the Department for Education of lacking trust in the teaching profession.
It follows a debate over how much of a rebate schools will get from exam boards following the government's decision to cancel exams this summer because of the Covid crisis.
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A letter signed by 24 MAT leaders and heads warns that in one trust alone exam boards are expected to bill £1 million and it is vital that this public money is accounted for.
It says that the trusts have instructed finance teams to only pay fully itemised invoices from awarding bodies "so that we are able to account appropriately to our trustees and, indeed, our external auditors for all such costs".
Jonny Uttley, chief executive of the Education Alliance academy trust in the East Riding and Hull, one of the signatories of the letter, said: "What we are saying is that from now on, as a group of trusts, we want to see itemised invoices from exam boards so that we can see that we are paying for services or work that has been done. And we will only be paying for that work."
Mr Uttley said MATs were concerned that a significant amount of the function of exam boards this year was being carried out in schools.
The letter sent to Ofqual today says: "While the ever-increasing quantum of costs around the English examinations and testing system had been concerning trustees and executive leaders for some time, prior to 2020, there was just about enough clarity over what schools and academies were actually paying for.
"Obviously, since the cancellation of the examination and testing series in both 2020 and 2021, that clarity is no longer the case.
"One of our signatories, the Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) has budgeted almost £1 million for the 2021 examinations and testing season.
"As this is, of course, public money, it is vital that trustees and their executives are able to account for such large sums. This is simply not possible right now. "
The letter highlights that exam board Pearson's operating profits went from £275 million in 2019 to £411 million in 2020.
It adds: "In this country, a significant part of Pearson’s income came from payments from schools for the award of grades when the role of the exam board was significantly diminished in 2020.
"Schools later received some refund on some of the fees paid. Given that this year, the burden falls even more heavily on schools, it would seem only right that schools receive a larger refund."
The letter has been signed by the following school leaders.
- Debbie Clinton – CEO, Academy Transformation Trust
- Jonny Uttley – CEO, The Education Alliance
- Wayne Norrie – CEO, Greenwood Academies Trust
- Cathy Anwar – CEO, Summit Learning Trust
- Sian Hampton – CEO, Archway Learning Trust
- Jon Chaloner – CEO, GLF Schools
- Tim Coulson – CEO, Unity Schools Partnership
- Bev Matthews – CEO, Minerva Learning Trust
- Gail Brown – CEO, Ebor Academy Trust
- Stephen Chamberlain – CEO, Active Learning Trust
- Helen Rowland – CEO, Focus Trust
- Ian McNeilly – CEO, The de Ferrers Trust
- Carol Dewhurst – CEO, Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust
- Gavin Booth – CEO, Infinity Academies Trust
- Karen Roberts – CEO, The Kemnal Academies Trust
- Will Teece – principal, Brookdale Groby Learning Campus
- Carl Smith – principal, Casterton College
- Tom Banham – CEO, Hoyland Common Academy Trust
- Matt Nicolle – principal, Redmore Academy
- Simon Jones – CEO, Fairfax Multi-Academy Trust
- Claire Cuthbert – CEO, The Evolve Trust
- Sam Strickland – principal, The Duston School
- Wesley Davies – CEO, Two Counties Trust
- Dan Morrow – CEO, Dartmoor Multi-Academy Trust