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pound;60,000 bill is a poor result

Anyone in doubt about the impact of the huge expansion of exams in schools should visit Aylesford comprehensive in Warwick.

From early May to early July, the gym and drama studios of the 1,020-pupil secondary are out of service as Year 9 youngsters sit key stage 3 tests, then 350 pupils take GCSEs, AS and A-levels.

The resulting avalanche of paper means the school has had to establish a special secure room in which to store thousands of completed scripts.

Exam fees have increased by 22 per cent, from pound;49,000 to pound;60,000 in just two years. Sue Dudley, headteacher, said this was driven partly by the school's decision to offer more vocational exams, such as vocational A-levels, which are more expensive than academic assessments.

Pupils were re-sitting more exams and taking more half-GCSEs in new subjects such as religious education and citizenship.

However, the fees bill is not the only one. Since last year, the school has taken on two part-time staff to process exam entries and assessment-related data, at an estimated cost of pound;25,000.

It also claims to spend pound;10,000 on exam costs related to special needs, including having two adults present when one pupil needs to have an exam read out to them.

The school is also paying 12 part-time staff pound;5.50 an hour to invigilate, adding up to pound;6,000.

Ms Dudley said that as many as 15 A-level students had to have exams moved this year because of timetable clashes.

In each case, an invigilator had to follow them around for up to a day, to ensure they did not speak to other students who had taken the paper.

Ms Dudley said: "It's a huge operation, which seems to go on interminably.

It is a shame that we are so involved in assessment, when teaching and learning should be the focus."

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