New transparency over exam fees welcomed by schools

Heads say exams are a 'huge expense' to schools and news that awarding bodies will have to publish exam fees is a 'welcome move'

Catherine Lough

piggy-bank on books

Headteachers have welcomed changes from the exams regulator that mean awarding bodies will have to publish the costs of their qualifications.

Ofqual this week announced the decision of a joint consultation, stating that all awarding bodies must publish the fees of their qualifications on their websites for any schools wishing to purchase them in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For overseas markets, awarding bodies will need to provide this information on request.

News: Ofqual could use AI to mark papers

Related: No GCSE grade for 4,500 students entered in wrong tier

Related: Ofqual will not change disputed A-level maths results

Teaching leaders welcomed the changes and described exam fees as a “major expense” for schools. In September, heads had warned of the additional burden on schools under financial strain as fees rose for the third time in three years.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “I am surprised that hasn’t been done already – exams are a major expense for any school, especially with the weight of qualifications schools have to take now – which I think are ridiculous anyhow.

“Schools need to be very clear about what the costs are.”

She noted that schools are more likely to choose exam boards on the basis of the course content offered, but that “this is becoming more homogenous anyhow when it is being assessed by timed exams”.

“So it’s a welcome move. Well done Ofqual, which is not something I often say!”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We welcome Ofqual’s decision to require exam boards to publish fee information in a standard and easily accessible format.

“While cost is only one factor that schools and colleges consider in choosing qualifications, it is nevertheless an important consideration, particularly at a time when budgets are under such pressure. Ensuring the availability of fee information will help schools and colleges decide which qualifications represent the best value for money.”

The publication of fees must include fees for any other products that need to be bought alongside the qualification as well as centre level costs.

Sally Collier, chief regulator at Ofqual, said: “We are convinced that the introduction of a requirement for awarding organisations to publish fee information will benefit purchasers of qualifications across Northern Ireland, Wales and England.

“While price is only one factor that purchasers should consider, the absence of full price transparency in the qualifications market creates the risk of unfairness and inefficiency.

“I believe the decisions we have announced today help to create a level playing field in our home markets, while accepting that a more flexible approach is needed in other markets around the world in order for the awarding organisations we regulate to remain competitive.”

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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