Quarter of a billion spent on exam entries a year, expert claims

Durham University academic questions whether schools could get something better for this huge investment

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A quarter of a billion pounds a year is being spent on exam entries alone, a respected assessment expert has claimed.

Professor Robert Coe, of Durham University's Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring, has revealed that approximately £272 million a year is spent on entering students for GCSEs, AS and A levels in England.

Speaking yesterday at the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), in Stratford-upon-Avon, Professor Coe questioned whether schools could get something better for the “colossal” investment.  

He asked whether the money could be better spent establishing whether summative assessments and long answers for students actually work well. 

Professor Coe, director of CEM, said: “They may require a little bit more assessment…we may have to collect more evidence from individual students. That may be the cost we have to pay.

“But I think the main barriers to this are cost, and that’s why the quarter of a billion is important. There ought to be quite a lot of money floating around to address this with.”

'Should we even be doing GCSE?'

The calculations, which were made by one of Professor Coe's PhD students, reveal that the cost of entering students for GCSEs alone in England is approximately £158 million a year.

At the conference of leading private school headteachers, Professor Coe asked: “Should we even be doing GCSE? That’s £150 million saved.

“Or maybe not. I think we may have to do some assessment, but it is a question.”

When asked, a number of heads at the conference implied that they were considering ditching GCSEs. And one head has already given up the qualification. 

In his speech at the HMC conference, Professor Coe also called for more teachers to be trained to understand the examinations and assessment system.

“The gap between what I think teachers know and what many teachers do know is so big that I think we need to be alarmed about that,” he added.

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