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Rising exam entry fees to be capped

Inflation-busting increases in exam costs are to be better regulated under QCA plans

EXAM ENTRY fees could be capped as the Government gets tough on boards that have increased the cost of entering GCSEs, A-levels and other qualifications well above inflation in recent years, according to the minutes of a Qualifications and Curriculum Authority meeting released this week.

In addition, state schools could be allowed to teach the international GCSE and further changes to A-level are being investigated.

The authority is looking into exam fee price limits, starting with the A-levels and diplomas that are being launched next year.

Boards are likely to have to publish their fees for exams a year in advance and their charges will be quoted in a common format on the authority's website so that teachers can see which are most expensive.

Last year, The TES revealed that fees rose by up to 72 per cent between 2003 and 2006. This year, fees have increased by up to 11 per cent. For some courses, increases have not been so great, but they have still been well above inflation. For example, an A-level with the OCR board that cost pound;56 in 2003, now stands at pound;72, a 29 per cent rise.

The boards will be compelled to tell the authority what fees they propose for the new A-levels and diplomas, before the QCA decides whether price caps are needed.

Fees for non-diploma vocational courses will also be investigated.

Meanwhile, a six-month saga over whether state schools should be allowed to follow independents in offering the international GCSE may be reaching resolution, with the authority's minutes indicating that it favours approving the exam. The name of the exam would have to change to prevent confusion with GCSEs, however, which at least one iGCSE board is believed to be considering.

The authority is also to investigate separating AS level from A2s, amid concerns about students resitting the easier AS papers to improve their overall A-level grades.

Isabel Nisbet, a QCA director, said some people believed unlimited resits were damaging confidence in A-levels. The authority's plans would see AS results not counting towards the A2 grade.

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