Heads call for exam appeal fees to be waived as schools brace for deluge of challenges

Fees should not be charged for appeals against exam results this year to ensure there is a “level playing field” for all pupils who want to challenge their results, a headteachers’ union has said.

The Association of School and College Leaders said it would “favour fees not being charged for appeals” this year, given the “unusual circumstances” faced by schools.

Yesterday, Ofqual confirmed its arrangements for appeals for GCSEs and A-levels this year, which have been based on centre-assessed grades which have then been standardised by exam boards.

The exams regulator has said schools will be able to challenge grades on behalf of their pupils, including where they have evidence that grades are “lower than expected because previous cohorts are not sufficiently representative of this year’s students”.

But with schools braced for a deluge of requests for challenges from pupils, heads have expressed concerns that appeal fees could leave the process inaccessible for some schools and pupils.

Ofqual has said that as usual, it will be up to individual exam boards to decide whether to set fees for appeals this year, and how much they will be.

But when approached by Schools Week, the exam boards said they had not yet finalised fees arrangements.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “In the unusual circumstances this year, we would favour fees not being charged for appeals.

“This would ensure that there is a level playing field so that the ability to appeal would not be constrained by the funding that is available. It would help to give people an additional level of confidence in the fairness of the process.”

Under normal arrangements, schools are charged fees for certain so-called “post-results services”, including clerical re-checks, reviews of marking and appeals.

Last year, fees for appeals ranged from between £111.75 and £148.30 for a preliminary appeal, and between £150 and £211.80 for a subsequent appeal hearing, meaning a school could pay as much as £360.10 per appeal.

However, exam boards generally waive or reduce their charges for post-results services where they result in a change in a grade.

Last year, exam boards received 1,254 appeals, up 46 per cent from the previous year, when there were 857 appeals. Of the 1,254 appeals last year, 683 were upheld and 426 resulted in a grade change.

But heads are expecting the number of appeals to rocket this year as pupils are more likely to question their results, particularly as Ofqual has already confirmed it has had to haul down centre-assessed grades by as much as 12 percentage points.

The Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents exam boards AQA, OCR, Edexcel and WJEC-Eduqas, said: “Arrangements have not yet been finalised, we are not in a position to comment.”

And spokespeople for AQA and OCR both said they would confirm details “as soon as we can”.