Schools given days to confirm autumn A-level resit venues

Schools requiring alternative venues for autumn A-level resits have less than two weeks to secure them and inform exam boards, the government has confirmed.

In updated guidance issued this week, the Department for Education told schools and colleges to notify the Joint Council for Qualification’s centre inspection service by September 18 if they intend to use alternative sites for replacement A-level exams in October.

And the DfE has confirmed to Schools Week that schools will also have to name their chosen venue when notifying the JCQ – giving leaders less than two weeks to secure a site, if they haven’t already.

The one-off autumn exam series has been set up to offer pupils who weren’t happy with their grades this year the chance to take an actual exam.

The DfE has set up an exam support service to provide “logistical and financial support” to schools for which it is not possible to run exams on their own sites without disrupting learning.

However, the September 18 deadline for finding alternative A-level venues leaves schools with little time to secure new sites. The deadline for alternative venues for GCSEs, which will take place in November, is October 16.

The DfE has also said it will not provide funding for set-up and cleaning costs ahead of autumn exams if schools are using their own sites. But such funding is available for schools that use alternative sites.

It comes as ministers are facing a growing backlash over their decision not to reimburse schools for the costs of preventative cleaning and site changes associated with the return of pupils.

Yesterday, the schools minister Nick Gibb told MPs the government expected schools to use up their reserves first before asking for government help.

However, the new DfE guidance has confirmed that schools will be reimbursed if autumn exam fees leave them out of pocket.

The government expects schools to pay fees for students entered for autumn exams rather than pass the costs on to families, but said that institutions “should not face additional costs for fees, over and above what they would have paid had summer exams gone ahead”.

Exam boards have refunded some of the fees paid by schools for summer exams that did not go ahead. AQA, for example, handed back £42 million – around 26 per cent of entry fees collected for the summer.

The government hopes schools will be able to use exam fee rebates to cover the costs of autumn exams. However, the DfE has said schools will be able to make reimbursement claims “for any deficit between their autumn exam fees and summer savings from exam fee rebates”.

There will also be “logistical and financial support” for schools to find invigilators for the autumn series.