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Ofqual budget gets £4m boost to cope with exam reform

Ministers have had to provide Ofqual with millions in additional funding so it can oversee their exam reforms, it has been revealed.

The exams regulator says its annual budget needed to be increased by more than a quarter to help it introduce new A-levels and GCSEs and a national reference test.

But headteachers say they are “staggered” that the money is being spent on the reformed exams at a time when school budgets and front-line services are being cut.

Ofqual had originally been given a £15.7 million budget for 2014-15. But the watchdog’s latest corporate plan shows that the government’s exam changes mean this is no longer enough.

“The introduction of GCSE, AS and A-level reform programmes and the development of a national reference test now require us to do significantly more than envisaged in our settlements,” it says.

“To fund this work, our resources have been increased by up to £4 million in 2014-15 and further resources will also be available in 2015-16.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “That is a staggering cost at a time when school budgets are reducing so substantially and front-line budgets are having to be cut back, raising big questions about whether these reforms are affordable.”

Ofqual says it is continuing discussions with the government about funding further into the future, “in light of the work necessary to ensure that within an acceptable period of time, regulated qualifications are fit for purpose”.

Professor Alan Smithers, from the University of Buckingham, said that Ofqual had been given a “very tough ask” of introducing “changes everywhere on a very short timescale”.

“They have got things pretty much on track,” he said. “But doing it quickly takes more money because you need more staff at once and so on.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Our reforms to GCSEs and A-levels are an important part of our plan for education, ensuring young people can be confident that they have the skills that will prepare them for life in modern Britain.

“We have provided Ofqual with additional resources to allow them to implement these important reforms and introduce a new national reference test, which will be used to underpin standards setting at GCSE.”

Related stories: 

GCSE reforms causing 'burnout' and stress for school staff - 8 August 2014

More exam board job losses as industry responds to GCSE and A level reforms - 19 October  2013

Ofqual puts brakes on GCSE and A level exam reforms - 6 September 2013

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