The UK’s biggest school exams board has denied claims that its staff-cutting plans will lead to more delays and mistakes in GCSE and A level results.
AQA is consulting on proposals to reduce staff numbers in its IT and “change management” departments by a third.
But one long-serving employee at the exam board’s Manchester offices, quoted by the union, Unison, fears the change could have damaging consequences for pupils and schools.
“We all believe that this reduction in staff and the support they provide will have a significant impact on the delivery of GCSE and A-level results in 2014,” they said.
“There will be longer waits and more mistakes, as a result of staff no longer monitoring results, and not having enough time to check for errors.
“If they take away the staff running the systems which generate exam results for students across the country, how do AQA expect to be able to deliver next year's exams and qualifications? They’re not just affecting the future of staff here, they’re messing with the futures of thousands of children.”
A spokesperson for the board said: “We understand that this is a difficult time for all staff involved in the proposed IT re-structure, but it is really disappointing and extremely unhelpful to see the suggestion that exams are at risk – this simply isn’t true.”
Unison views the proposed cuts as a response to Government plans to drastically reduce coursework and to end the current modular nature of GCSEs and A levels – a change which will mean fewer exams.
But AQA says they are not a reaction to external changes but part of "an ongoing review of normal management arrangements".
The board currently has 149 staff in the two departments and plans to cut them back to 98. It points out that it also has more 650 other staff directly involved in delivering exams.
But Unison argues the cuts the board is being too quick in making cuts that will limit its ability to respond if the current government’s exam reforms are reversed.
“AQA are responding in a knee-jerk way to Michael Gove’s latest whim, and are rushing ahead with changes that will undermine the exam board’s ability to deliver rigorous, multifaceted exams in the future,” Theresa Griffin, Unison north west regional adviser said.
“The haphazard cuts will alter the way our examination system is written, designed and marked, leaving no hope of a return to a coursework and modular based system.”
“We are calling on AQA to stop this unnecessary and reckless rush towards redundancies.”
“We will continue to consider carefully all the options and suggestions made through the consultation period and will provide a full response to staff from the departments concerned when the consultation closes,” a spokesperson said.
“We value the expertise of our staff and can assure students and teachers that we will continue to deliver our services to the same high standard.”