Our refund for summer 2021

Published: Friday 16 Jul 2021

This summer, students will only receive qualifications because of the huge amount of extra work that schools and colleges have taken on. The professionalism with which they’ve carried this out – at a time when there’s so much else to contend with – is outstanding.

That’s why, as a not-for-profit organisation, we’re giving back as much money to schools and colleges as we possibly can – because, as we’ve always said, we’d never want to benefit financially from the changes to how qualifications are being awarded this summer.

We can now confirm that we’ve saved £45 million this summer, so we’ll be returning all of this to schools and colleges. This means we’ll be refunding 26% of the entry fees paid.

We realise that some schools and colleges might have wanted more, so here are the reasons why this sadly wasn’t possible.

As a charity, any income we make gets invested back into qualifications and assessment. This income enables us to keep operating now and in the future – and ensures that every student studying for an AQA qualification will be able to complete it and receive a result.

Our financial viability is a regulatory requirement – and, as the country’s biggest exam board, is essential for the future of our education system.

So, while we haven’t kept anything we don’t need, we have to make sure we’ve got enough money to cover our costs. And the arrangements for this year have meant we’ve had to do more work than last year, so sadly we haven’t made as many savings as some have suggested.

For example, fees for this summer have covered costs including:

  • collecting grades and supporting schools and colleges through the process
  • carrying out a complex and completely new quality assurance process – which involves a large number of examiners
  • certifying and issuing results
  • preparing a full GCSE and A-level exam series for the autumn
  • developing new IT systems to support this summer’s awarding process
  • providing more training, guidance and support than usual – including delivering new courses and increasing our customer service support
  • producing a wide range of assessment resources
  • paying our staff, who are working on this summer and future exam series
  • covering our usual basic running costs.

We’re well aware of the calls for a much bigger refund. Unfortunately, the kind of refund that some have called for would have meant huge, unmanageable financial losses for us – and these would be so great that we wouldn’t be able to survive as an organisation and run exams for students next summer and beyond.

Autumn series 2021 and summer series 2022

While we normally review our fees before the start of each new school year, we’re keeping the summer 2021 entry fees for our qualifications frozen for the November 2021, January 2022 and March 2022 series.

As Ofqual hasn’t yet confirmed the arrangements for next summer’s exams, we’ll be in touch with schools and colleges about fees for 2022 as soon as possible, later in the year. We know it won’t be a normal year and we’ll be doing lots of additional work to make sure we can support our schools and colleges.

You can find out more about what our fees cover and how we reinvest in education on our entry fees webpage.

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