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Private Education: Assessments

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL15125, tabled on 20 April 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what equalities impact assessment they undertook before making the decision to charge private candidates a fee to be assessed by an exam centre in summer 2021.

Answered on

29 April 2021

Given the ongoing disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 outbreak we announced in January that GCSE, AS and A level exams would not go ahead as planned this summer. The department and Ofqual launched joint consultations on 15 January on how to award grades for both general qualifications and vocational and technical qualifications in 2021 so they are robust and fair.

We have sought to identify how these alternative arrangements could have a positive or negative impact on students because of their protected characteristics and how any negative impacts could be removed or mitigated. We have undertaken this analysis in line with the public sector equality duty in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 and in line with the published equalities impact statement following the consultation on alternative arrangements for awarding qualifications.

Exam boards and Ofqual have built considerable flexibility into the way that centres can gather evidence to determine their students’ grades. This should provide all students with opportunities to generate evidence of their performance and for evidence that already exists to be used where appropriate. Accordingly, the Joint Council for Qualifications have issued guidance for centres about assessing candidates this year, including specific guidance for private candidates, taking into account their different circumstances.

Private candidates can work with a centre to be assessed on a range of evidence, which could include evidence from an established educational provider and the board provided assessment materials. These candidates should have the same opportunity as other students to be assessed on what they were taught, and centres can conduct assessments remotely if needed.

As with every year, private candidates are expected to contribute to the cost of their exams. This usually includes the entry fee paid to the exam board and an administration fee paid to the centre. Centres working with new private candidates could experience additional workload, for example needing to work with other providers, setting new assessments, working with a different selection of evidence, and understanding the candidate’s situation. To support centres with these additional requirements this year, the Department for Education is providing a grant to centres of £200 per private candidate entry.

The grant aims to avoid the cost of this additional and particular work being passed onto candidates, so that candidates can access a centre at a similar cost to a normal exam year.

Exam centres claiming the grant are expected to charge candidates the same fee as a normal year, and not more than the maximum fees described in the guidance. We expect the grant to have a beneficial impact on access to centres for all private candidates, including those who share particular protected characteristics.