OCR 42% exam fee rebate 'big improvement', say heads

Ofqual urged to review exam board rebate processes to understand 'reasons for large differences' in sums given back

Catherine Lough

GCSEs fees cash rebate

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.

GCSEs 2021: AQA 26% exam fee rebate 'unacceptable'

Exam fees: 'Headteachers misunderstand exam board workload'

Poll: Most headteachers want 75 per cent exam fee rebate

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.”

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

Latest stories

Spinning plates - challegens ahead for new education secretary

The key issues Nadhim Zahawi must focus on - and fast

Any new education secretary faces a big job but Nadhim Zahawi has perhaps a bigger to-do list than most. Sam Freedman breaks down the challenges he faces and what it might mean for those in education
Sam Freedman 17 Sep 2021