Headteachers have praised an exam board's decision to give schools and colleges a 42 per cent rebate on fees this year as a "big improvement" compared with the rebate awarded last year.
Today, exam board OCR confirmed that it will refund schools 42 per cent of their exam fees.
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In a statement from OCR, the board said: "We believe it is important to return as much as possible to schools and colleges given the huge amount of extra work that teachers and school leaders have done this year.
"To recognise this we have decided to increase what we will pay back to schools and colleges beyond this year’s savings alone. To give schools and colleges a rebate of 42 per cent of fees for general qualifications and 20 per cent for our main vocational qualifications, we are committed to returning a total of £18.4 million to the sector."
Headteachers have said the rebate does not go far enough but improves on the rebate awarded in 2020. They added that it was much more than the 26 per cent offered by AQA as a rebate, which was criticised by Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, as "unacceptable".
Julie McCulloch, policy director at ASCL, said: “We welcome this rebate from OCR. It doesn’t go as far as many school and college leaders would have liked, but it is a big improvement on last year’s rebate, and better reflects the huge workload shouldered by schools and colleges in assessing students this year following the cancellation of public exams.
“This is in line with the discount provided by WJEC Eduqas and a lot more than the discount of 26 per cent offered by AQA with which we are very disappointed. We are still waiting to hear from Pearson Edexcel.
Ms McCulloch added that ASCL had written to Ofqual to ask the regulator to carry out a formal review of this year's exam fees and the discounts provided by exam boards.
"We feel that it is important to look critically at how rebates have been calculated and the reasons for large differences. This is crucial in retaining the confidence of school and college leaders," she said.
“We have also written to the education secretary asking him to support schools and colleges in the same way as has happened in Wales where the government there has topped up the WJEC Eduqas discount on exam fees so that the overall discount comes to 50 per cent.
“It would be helpful if the government could do this in England. It would recognise the enormous amount of work involved in assessing students this summer and help address the fact that school and college finances have taken a huge hit because of costs associated with the pandemic.”