Cost of exams soaring

25th June 2004 at 01:00
Schools and colleges in Wales and England are spending more than a quarter of a billion pounds a year on exam entry fees - and the bill is likely to rise still further, a TES survey has revealed.

Secondaries are now allocating an average of pound;50,000 just for entering students for A-level, GCSE and vocational assessments, a 31 per cent increase in just two years. When the pound;30 million cost of national curriculum tests are added, the total testing bill approaches pound;300m.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said:

"This is damning evidence of the excessive system of external assessment."

The figures, compiled as around a million students sit A-levels and GCSEs, do not include the costs of exams officers and extra administrative staff, or postage bills which now often run into hundreds of pounds.

And from September next year, under the workforce agreement, schools will have to employ dedicated invigilators, rather than teachers, to administer exams.

Many schools are already taking on the part-time staff, at an extra cost of around pound;6,000 for a typical secondary, despite receiving no specific funding.

In 2003, exam entry fees totalled pound;266m, the survey of 110 schools and colleges reveals. This represents a 13 per cent increase on the bill for 2002, the first full year of exams under the controversial Curriculum 2000 reforms, which led to a surge in entries.

In Wales, key stage 1 tests have been dropped, and education and lifelong learning minister Jane Davidson is expected to announce shortly whether key stage 2 and 3 tests will follow.

But exam boards warn the bill will rise again if plans for modular GCSEs bear fruit. The re-sit culture at A-level and the growing popularity of more expensive vocational exams are also being blamed for soaring costs.

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