Exam boards’ ‘eye-watering’ costs could trigger fee rise and drop in qualifications

The TES is reporting that exam boards are considering raising fees for schools and cutting subjects in reformed GCSEs and A-levels, as they struggle with “eye-watering” financial pressures.

A range of government reforms has left England’s awarding bodies with falling income from entries and rising costs; leading some insiders to question the viability of the existing school exam system.

“Boards are desperate to keep a lid on fees, but there comes a point at which they just won’t be able to keep taking the extra costs,” a senior figure linked to one board said…

Asked about running school exams in the future, one insider told TES: “I’m not convinced it’s a viable model. All businesses running UK exams will be looking for a long-term sustainable position and that’s where you’ll start seeing pressure on prices.”

…The three biggest exam boards – OCR, AQA and Edexcel – have already angered ministers by warning that they cannot commit to continuing to offer exams in “community” languages, such as Polish and Bengali, which tend to have low entries.

Now senior figures are also understood to be questioning whether they should develop some of the third wave of reformed GCSEs and A-levels, which are due to be taught from September 2017. This is  because development costs would be high and entries low…

The Department for Education told TES that it expected boards to offer qualifications with low entry numbers “as part of their commitment to corporate social responsibility”. It has revived the prospect of bringing exam provision in-house to a single state-run board, warning that “long-term reforms” were under consideration.

See more on this in the 22 January edition of TES.

More at: Investigation: Exam boards’ ‘eye-watering’ costs could trigger fee rise and drop in qualifications


How do you react to the suggestion that exam boards might be struggling and could respond by either raising fees or dropping subjects?

Does it not, once again, beg the question of whether a different kind of model might work better? Perhaps with individual subjects being allocated to specific boards, rather than having them compete on all of them?

Please give us your reactions in the comments or via Twitter…

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  1. This is an inevitable consequence of running exam boards on business lines.  And they have a vested interest in pupils taking large numbers of exams throughout their school lives.
    This is not in the best interests of children.  Children in the UK and especially England are among the most tested in the world.   The main beneficiary of exams should be pupils not businesses.

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