Exam fees threat

22nd November 1996 at 00:00
Your coverage of the Education Bill and rising exam fees (TES, November 8) missed a new threat. Section 52 in the new Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to levy a charge on any vocational qualification accredited by the Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority. As QNCA is also being given powers of approval over all publicly-funded qualifications, section 52 opens the way for the Treasury to tax exams to save itself some money.

It may look like this is nothing new - after all, the National Council for Vocational Qualifications has been charging an NVQ levy for years - but QNCA will have statutory powers that the NCVQ doesn't have. A qualifications levy on awarding bodies will be passed on to colleges, employers and students, who will have little choice but to pay it. A compulsory service charge is a poor euphemism for a tax. As George Bush once said "if it walks like a tax, talks like a tax and looks like a tax, it's a tax".

JULIAN GRAVATT Registrar Lewisham College London SE4

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