Refund exam entry fees 2021

Refund exam entry fees 2021

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Thomas Clarke started this petition to UK Parliament

Sign this petition to support the full refund of exam entry fees back to schools. As the exam boards have passed on so many of their responsibilities this year to schools and teachers, they should refund the money they have received for this work directly back to schools.

Schools across England and Wales are approaching their second consecutive exam season to be disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As they did in 2020, the government has cancelled all GCSE and A Level exams for 2021 and the responsibility for assessing students’ grades lies again with schools and teachers. After the exams fiasco of August 2020, educators have welcomed the more robust procedures introduced for this summer by Ofqual and JCQ. But, as schools quickly realised, a significant proportion of the workload to uphold the new procedures has landed at the feet of school leaders and teachers.

In 2020 the exam boards issued entry fee refunds of up to 26% to schools. AQA, for example, refunded a total of £42m to schools, and OCR offered some compensation to their assessors who suffered loss of income with no exams to mark. In justification for not offering a full refund, they all argued that when the pandemic hit, they had already spent much of their 2020 budget on writing the exams, printing the papers and processing candidate entries. Surely then, the entry fees for 2021 were cheaper, to reflect that the exam boards had enough warning this year not to accrue these costs? Actually, entry fees increased.

As a Head of Department currently trying to juggle both teaching my students and working through the new assessment procedures, I am still waiting for evidence of what the exam boards have done to deserve their usual entry fee this year, let alone an increased one. Have they set out a clear, rigorous process by which all schools administer their Teacher Assessed Grades consistently? No. Have they produced any new exam materials for use in compulsory formal assessments? No. Have they offered to mark assessments to guarantee freedom from bias? No.

Students have struggled to cope with their learning during the pandemic, and many are suffering as a result of the upheaval. Schools’ capacity to support them as we emerge from this crisis is under attack. Government cuts to the schools budget have already devastated SEN provision, restricted students’ access to free school meals, and hampered schools’ ability to provide remote and socially-distanced learning. At the same time, the government has chosen to freeze teachers’ pay, in spite of the added responsibility and the threat of appeals now hanging over individual teachers. The money spent on exam entry fees would be better spent supporting students through the crisis and compensating teachers for their increased workload.

Exam boards have already received substantial sums in exam entry fees for 2021. In a time of economic uncertainty they will understandably want to hold onto that money. Meanwhile schools are dealing every day with real, human costs of the pandemic. The government must force exam boards to refund exam entry fees. Sign this petition to show you know it is schools who should decide, not only who needs that money most, but who deserves it.

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