England’s chief exam regulator has claimed that GCSE exam fees represent good value for schools because they cost less per pupil than the price of “a good meal for two”.
The comments from Glenys Stacey, head of Ofqual, risk provoking the ire of headteachers who say that many schools spend more on exams than they do on learning resources and have called on the watchdog to do more to reduce them.
But Ms Stacey is clear that the funds that go on exams are worth it. "A GCSE currently costs less than £30, with marking included, and I often say that I can’t get a good meal for two on that, possibly a good meal for one,” Ms Stacey told a Westminster Education Forum conference in London last week. “I actually think it is remarkably good value for money.”
She added that the quality of teaching was a more important issue. “If we are talking about value, I think that is a much bigger subject and a very worthwhile one than whether a GCSE costs £20 or £30 or £40.”
Speaking earlier at the same event, Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Money is tight in many schools and the current examination bill for a 1,200 pupil 11-18 secondary school would probably be in excess of £100,000.
“In a survey we carried out a couple of years ago, many schools were actually spending more on examination fees than they were on the basic learning resources.”
“It would certainly go down well with schools if Ofqual could keep examination fees down,” he added. “Other regulators do have and use that power. We believe there should be more scrutiny into the cost of examinations.”
But Mr Trobe also acknowledged the “huge development costs” that exam boards now faced in producing the next generation of GCSEs and A-levels.
The awarding bodies are also being squeezed by the loss of income that will come with the reduction in the number of exams taken following the end of modularisation and the drop in resit numbers, meaning any reduction in fees is unlikely.
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