Outrage at hike in fees

25th June 2004 at 01:00
Exam fees have soared by up to 15 per cent this year, sending the assessment bill for schools rocketing.

The country's largest board, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, has hiked prices the most, raising them for most major qualifications by 14 per cent.

The increases are provoking disquiet in schools - several telling The TES that they feel aggrieved.

At AQA, fees for a full six-unit A-level have risen from pound;55.20 in 2003 to pound;63, or 14 per cent. At GCSE, the cost of entering has risen 11 per cent, from pound;18.90 to pound;20.90 for a single award.

Fees for vocational A-levels and General National Vocational Qualifications have also risen 14 per cent. The most expensive exam, a 12-unit vocational A-level, is now pound;126.

A spokeswoman for the board, which handles around half of England's GCSE and A-level entries, said the rises were explained partly by AQA's decision to freeze prices when the Curriculum 2000 A-level changes were introduced in 2001 and 2002.

AS entries were also originally offered at a lower rate than those for A2s in order to encourage entries, she said.

At Edexcel, increases range from a more modest 5 per cent for GCSEs (pound;20 to pound;21) to a 10 per cent rise for A-level (pound;60 to pound;66), and a 15 per cent hike for GNVQs (pound;68.50 to pound;79 for the full award). At A-level, costs in some minority subjects have climbed even more steeply: by 16 per cent in the case of music and some drama and physical education exams.

At OCR, the rise has been a standard 4 per cent, taking fees for A-levels from pound;56.40 to pound;58.80 and GCSEs from pound;19 to pound;19.80.

The board charges the highest fee for any mainstream qualification, the pound;172.80 it costs to enter a 12-unit vocational A-level.

All three boards have sought to explain rises well in excess of inflation with reference to Curriculum 2000, which turned the A-level into a modular qualification and saw students routinely sitting four AS-levels in the lower sixth.

The need to "modernise" the exam process - investing in improved support for schools and enhanced use of technology - was also cited as an explanation.

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