Examination fees – really a good use of public money?

Writing ExamsImage © ccarlstead @ Flickr CC BY 2.0

I work in a special school, with a small number of pupils.  This means we enter a relatively small number of pupils for examinations etc.  Earlier in the year my bursar came to find me with an invoice for well over £1000.  “Is this yours?” she asked me.  Being a stickler for financial protocols in school, I was sure I hadn’t spent that much money, until I noticed the logo on the top of the invoice.  The logo belonged to Edexcel, and the invoice was BTEC Science fees for the 18 students I had just entered.  Scale that ten times or more, and across multiple subjects, you start to get an idea of some of scale of examination spending by schools, but is this really value for money?

On the day we broke up for the Christmas vacation I received a message from a copyright officer at AQA concerning copyrighted materials on my blog.  Immediately my mind jumped to the science resources I had put online.  Did any of these contain examination questions or materials from AQA that shouldn’t have been there.  I have been extremely careful which of my resources I share, so I decided to investigate further.  A quick search of the logs revealed that someone with an IP address belonging to the Northern Examination And Assessment Board in Manchester had been following links from Google Images to my site.  In fact they had visited my site over a period of an hour and forty-five minutes so they clearly had nothing better to do a few days before Christmas.   Yes I had been very naughty indeed, I had linked to an AQA logo in a blog post of two years ago offering free resources to support the AQA exam.  Of course I removed the offending link from my blog, requested that Google re-index the page, and emailed the copyright officer to let them know.  It is strange that they didn’t have time to acknowledge my email given that they had an hour and forty five minutes of free time to keep looking at it!  If only AQA would invest more money in the format of their (atrocious) multiple choice core science exam and less money on red tape and copyright, our children might perform better in their examinations.  I’m glad to see they are putting our huge examination fees to good use.

In a press release on the 7th January (and reported in the TES on Friday 8th Jan) the National Education Trust questions the spending of millions of pounds of pounds of taxpayers money on examination fees.  With the current huge levels of public debt we should be asking ourselves if it is still best value for money to pour money into the pockets of the examination boards’ shareholders.  Perhaps it is time to look at examinations at 16 (and their fees) afresh!

Comments welcome 🙂


Published by Rob Butler

Ex-science teacher, ex-school leader and full-time geek.