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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/responsibility-for-autumn-gcse-as-and-a-level-exam-series/dfe-exam-support-service-autumn-exam-fees-sites-and-invigilators
This guidance is for:
- school and college senior leaders
- heads of other types of exam centre offering GCSEs, A/AS level or vocational and technical qualification (VTQ) exams
- exams officers and other staff involved in exam delivery
- local authorities, single academy trusts (SATs) and multi-academy trusts (MATs)
Summary of support available
This section lists the categories centres can claim under and provides a summary of the funding calculation for each category. Further detail is included in this guidance and should be referred to prior to submitting a claim.
Exam fee deficit claim
Autumn exam fees minus summer rebate. As in 2020, do not claim for this category if your summer exam fee rebates or summer fee reductions exceed or are equal to your autumn exam fees.
Additional venue capacity claim
Cost of autumn 2021 additional venue capacity.
Additional invigilators claim
Cost of autumn invigilators minus summer 2021 savings on invigilation.
Additional invigilator training claim
Cost of training new invigilators required to resource autumn 2021 exam series.
Extended ESS for exams and assessments in January, February and March 2022 which are not part of the autumn series
Costs for additional invigilators required due to staff absence.
In January 2021, government announced it was no longer fair for GCSE, AS, A level and some vocational and technical qualification (VTQ) exams to proceed as planned in summer 2021. Instead, students who were due to sit exams received teacher assessed grades in summer 2021. Students also had the option to sit GCSE, A level and some AS level exams in autumn 2021. Some VTQ students will be able to sit exams as a resit opportunity in autumn 2021 and spring 2022. Students can sit these exams if they are not satisfied with their summer teacher assessed grade or if they need an improved result to move onto the next stage of their education.
This guidance is about the DfE exam support service - an extensive support package to help schools and colleges with essential additional costs associated with running exams in autumn 2021, including exam fees charged by awarding organisations, alternative venues, and invigilation.
In addition, due to the public health situation the DfE has agreed to extend the exam support service to centres running exams and assessments in January, February and March 2022 that are not being run as part of the autumn series (that is, are not a resit opportunity for students who received a teacher assessed grade in summer 2021), for costs related to additional invigilators required as a result of staff absences.
This document provides guidance about the service so schools, colleges and other registered exam centres can:
- make reimbursement claims for any deficit created by autumn exam fees (similar to last year, this is after exam fee rebates have been taken into account)
- make their own arrangements for alternative venues for autumn exams (subject to the criteria set out in this guidance) and claim back the full cost, if it is not possible to run exams on their own premises without disrupting study
- claim back invigilation costs for autumn 2021 exams (where these exceed the savings made on summer 2021 invigilation)
- claim back invigilation training costs (for new invigilators required for the autumn exam series)
- claim back costs for additional invigilators required due to staff absence for exams and assessments in January, February and March 2022 that are not being run as part of the autumn series
You should also read the guidance on schools and colleges’ responsibilities for the autumn exams which includes expectations for paying exam fees.
Schools and colleges may wish to collaborate, for example to book shared venues or to share invigilators. Schools and colleges should make their own arrangements to do this if they wish.
If you have further queries about using the DfE exam support service that are not answered in this guidance, contact us via the ESFA helpdesk.
This support is available to state-funded exam centres or any centre on behalf of a private candidate. Centres must enter students in at least one of the following qualifications (referred to as ‘autumn exams’ in the rest of this guidance):
- qualifications referred to as ‘autumn exams’ in the rest of this guidance, which covers:
- GCSE, AS level and A level exams in autumn 2021
- VTQ exams in autumn 2021
- VTQ exams in spring 2022 which are being used as a resit opportunity for students awarded a teacher assessed grade in 2021
- VTQ qualifications with exams in January, February and March 2022 which are not being used as a resit opportunity for students awarded a teacher assessed grade in summer 2021 - in this case centres can claim for extra invigilator costs only and should use qualification code 10000001 – extended ESS when making a claim
Centres which may make a claim under this guidance include:
- state-funded schools and academies
- further education, sixth form and tertiary colleges
- independent training providers who deliver publicly funded VTQs
- state-funded adult and community learning providers
- non-state-funded centres where the cost was incurred for a private candidate who the centre entered in summer, did not withdraw and did not charge any further fees for autumn entry - centres will need to explain how the cost relates to that candidate and not others, and the private candidate entry ‘flag’ must be applied for each applicable candidate
In the rest of this guidance, the term ‘schools and colleges’ is used to refer to all types of exam centre as detailed above.
1.2 Exams and assessments in scope
The service will provide support for the following qualifications:
- A and AS levels and GCSEs (with the exception below)
- VTQs and other general qualifications at level 1/2, level 2 and level 3, where students received a teacher assessed grade in summer 2021 and there is a scheduled assessment opportunity for the qualification in the autumn 2021 or spring 2022 series
- all other VTQs scheduled in January, February and March 2022 - these qualifications are eligible for extra invigilator costs required as a result of staff absence only
The service will cover any additional venue and invigilation costs required for condition of funding English and maths exams taken by students who have not achieved a GCSE grade 4 or above in these subjects.
GCSE English and maths resit exams take place in November in a normal academic year and schools and colleges will have planned and budgeted for them, including for entry fees. Schools and colleges should therefore only claim for additional venue and invigilation costs needed in 2021.
1.3 When to use the service
You should have first established whether you have capacity to accommodate exams using your existing venues and staff before booking alternative venues or invigilators. You may also want to consider whether collaborative arrangements with other schools and colleges in your area could be possible (for example, other schools in your multi-academy trust (MAT) or local authority). This should meet the Joint Council for Qualifications’ instructions for conducting examinations or, in the case of VTQs, arrangements specified by the relevant awarding organisation.
The circumstances of each school or college will vary – many will be able to accommodate all exams with their own venues or staff, or through collaboration with other schools or colleges nearby. Others may be able to accommodate some exams within their venues but need support to run larger entry subjects. You can use the service for some, or all, of the eligible exams, depending on your own circumstances.
1.4 Service availability
The claims service for DfE 2021 qualifications funding is now open. For autumn exams, schools and colleges can claim for costs relating to exam fees, invigilators, invigilator training and alternative venues as set out later in this guidance.
Centres which have entered students for VTQ exams in January, February and March 2022 that are not being used as a resit opportunity for students awarded a teacher assessed grade in summer 2021 can claim for extra invigilator costs only and should use qualification code 10000001 – extended ESS when making a claim.
We have published guidance to help you complete the form.
Claims should be submitted after all costs have been incurred. Claims for autumn 2021 exam costs undertaken between 1 October 2021 and 25 February 2022, should be made by 4 March 2022.
The claims process for invigilation and alternative venues will remain open into the spring term 2022 to cover some VTQ assessments taking place at that time that had not been available in the autumn term and the additional exams now in scope for invigilator costs. Claims for exam costs undertaken between 28 February 2022 and 31 March 2022 should be made by 6 April 2022.
1.5 Making a claim
Where you do not currently receive payments from ESFA, in order to receive payments against any claim you will need to provide information about your banking and payments to DfE. You will also need to enter your 8-digit UK provider registration number (UKPRN). If you do not know the UKPRN for your school or college, you can find it on Get information about schools. If you do not have a UKPRN you can register as a UK learning provider (note that this should be prioritised to prevent delays to payment). If your school or college isn’t already set up with a DfE sign-in or UKPRN, you should set this up in advance of making a claim so that payment is not delayed.
For all types of claim covered in this guidance centres should keep a record of their UKPRN, centre number, candidate number, and the exam number and ID as these may be required when making a claim.
You should follow school procurement rules.
We will review claims and may refuse payment or require repayment for any claims that do not meet the criteria set out in this guidance. You should therefore ensure that you keep records of this expenditure and the related evidence for at least one year.
2. Support for paying exam fees
The DfE exam support service will provide financial support to schools and colleges to ensure that they do not incur a net loss from paying autumn 2021 fees. Similar to 2020, this is once any rebates or credit notes they receive for summer 2021 exams and assessments have been taken into account.
2.1 Funding eligibility criteria for exam fees
This applies to fees incurred for entering students in autumn 2021 exams for Ofqual regulated GQs or VTQs or spring 2022 to sit VTQs for which they received teacher assessed grades in summer 2021.
You will receive notification of any rebates, fee discounts or credit notes on summer 2021 exam fees from your awarding organisation. We anticipate that the rebates or credit notes schools or colleges receive will cover the costs of the autumn exams in many cases. Similar to 2020, you must use these rebates to cover autumn fees in the first instance. If your additional fees for the autumn exams exceed any rebates or credit notes you receive for summer 2021, DfE will provide funding to cover this difference.
We will not provide funding for any administrative fees charged by schools and colleges, over and above the fees charged by the awarding organisations. We do not expect schools and colleges to charge administrative fees to students who choose to sit an autumn exam. At all centres, where private candidates have already paid an administrative fee for the summer, we would expect their centre to enter them for autumn and would not expect them to be charged a further fee.
For independent schools, fees, including those charged for exams, are a contractual matter. It is at the discretion of independent schools if they choose to charge an administrative fee to students who sit exams in the autumn. We would, however, expect these to be minimal if applicable. Independent schools cannot charge a fee to private candidates and then use the exam support service.
2.2 What you will need to make a funding claim for fees
You need to keep evidence of your autumn 2021 fees and 2021 summer fee rebates or credit notes received for inspection.
Examples of acceptable evidence include:
- exam fees evidence examples (GCSEs, AS/A levels, VTQs only)
- credit notes for rebates issued by awarding organisations, relating to summer 2021 exams
- for the period October 2021 to March 2022 assessment or exam entry fee invoices issued (or both) by awarding organisations
3. Support for alternative exam venues
The DfE exam support service will provide financial support to schools and colleges to find alternative venues to run the 2021 autumn exams where it is not possible to run them on their own venues (or collaboratively) without disruption to study.
You need to make sure that you follow JCQ guidance on alternative venue arrangements or appropriate guidance for VTQs set by the awarding organisation. This includes ensuring that you make bookings in time to inform them of your alternative venue for exams. For GCSE, AS and A level exams, this means that for any exams that were conducted at an address other than your school or college’s registered address, you would need to have notified the JCQ Centre Inspection Service by 23 August 2021 for AS and A level exams, or 20 September 2021 for GCSE exams. You must have completed the JCQ Alternative Venue form online using the Centre Admin Portal (CAP). CAP can be accessed via any of the exam boards’ secure extranet venues.
3.2 Funding eligibility criteria for booking your own alternative venue
Centres should book their own alternative venues and submit claims to us along with supporting evidence.
Claims for alternative venue costs can include associated set up and cleaning costs for the venue where necessary. This extends to normal set up and cleaning costs required under the terms of the venue hire. It does not extend to purchasing additional materials such as screens or booths. The service will not provide funding if you are using your own premises to facilitate exams. Cleaning or set-up required for your own premises is also not covered.
You should submit your claim after exams have taken place because cancellation charges will not be covered apart from in exceptional circumstances. For example, cancellation charges would be eligible where local restrictions prevent candidates from taking exams at a venue where payment has already been made and cannot be refunded, but not in circumstances such as the centre subsequently deciding it can run exams on its own premises.
When booking alternative venues, we would expect costs to reflect local rates. We have set out an illustrative table below and we would not generally expect costs to fall outside these ranges unless there are exceptional circumstances (for example local restrictions leading to an increase in prices for all suppliers). These illustrative costs include cleaning of the venue and are based on candidates being spaced 2 metres apart.
You will need to retain evidence to support your claim, for example by sourcing a range of quotes. DfE reserves the right to fund on the basis of the rates shown below if this evidence is not provided.
Venue rates per day outside London
|Candidate numbers per venue||Typical rate||Maximum rate|
|1 to 15||£450||£650|
|Up to 30||£700||£1,650|
|31 to 60||£900||£1,650|
|61 to 100||£2,000||£2,500|
Venue rates per day in London
|Candidate numbers per venue||Typical rate||Maximum rate|
|1 to 15||£750||£950|
|Up to 30||£2,000||£3,000|
|31 to 60||£2,500||£3,000|
|61 to 100||£2,500||£3,500|
3.3 What you will need to make a funding claim for alternative venues
You will need to retain evidence to support your claim, for example by sourcing a range of quotes.
When booking rooms for over 100 candidates, you must get three quotes to confirm value for money and submit these as part of your claim. You will also need to provide an explanation should you not select the lowest quote.
We have set out an illustrative table of costs in section 3.2 of this guidance and we would not generally expect costs to fall outside these ranges unless there are exceptional circumstances. To assess this, we will ask you to confirm the largest number of candidates using the venue in a single exam for each day that you claim.
If you acted in collaboration with other schools or colleges, then the school or college that made the arrangement and paid for the venue will be able to enter a claim through the DfE exam support service.
Examples of acceptable venue costs evidence include:
- final invoices for venue hire
- invoices for cleaning or set up (where necessary)
- quotes for venue costs over DfE’s illustrative costs
4. Support for invigilation
The DfE exam support service will provide financial support to schools and colleges to book invigilators for the autumn 2021 exams.
Additionally, this service is now also available to centres which have entered students for VTQ exams in January, February and March 2022 that are not being used as a resit opportunity for students awarded a teacher assessed grade in summer 2021. Claims can be made for extra invigilator costs for these exams only where they are required due to staff absence.
In many cases, schools and colleges will already have a pool of invigilators available to use. In some instances, however, they may not have sufficient invigilators available. Schools and colleges should make local arrangements to book additional invigilators if required.
You will be able to claim back autumn 2021 exam invigilation costs which exceed the savings made on summer invigilation.
4.1 Funding eligibility criteria for invigilation costs
You will be able to claim back the deficit if your autumn invigilation costs exceed the amount of money you have saved on invigilation in summer 2021. The saving should be calculated by comparing to your last normal exam year (for most centres this will be 2019). If you are a new centre, you should use appropriate comparisons for your size of centre.
Additionally, this service is now also available to centres which have entered students for VTQ exams in January, February and March 2022 that are not being used as a resit opportunity for students awarded a teacher assessed grade in summer 2021 to claim for extra invigilator costs where they are required due to staff absence.
Funding will cover time invigilators spend receiving training on venue-specific information. The cost of invigilator training courses is covered in section 5 of this guidance.
You should not make any changes to the arrangements you have already made for invigilator payments for summer 2021 as a result of this guidance.
We would expect you to follow JCQ’s instructions for conducting exams or the appropriate awarding organisation’s recommendations on the number of invigilators required for each exam, unless you can demonstrate exceptional circumstances, for example those relating to reasonable adjustments or access arrangements.
The service will not provide funding for travel costs.
You should submit your claim after exams have taken place because we will not cover cancellation charges unless you can show there were exceptional circumstances. For example, costs may be covered where local restrictions prevent invigilators carrying out duties but payment has already been made and cannot be refunded, but not in circumstances such as the centre subsequently deciding it can run exams with fewer invigilators.
4.2 What you’ll need to make a funding claim for invigilation
You should keep records of exams administered and you may be asked to provide an explanation if you are claiming for high invigilator to student ratios.
For autumn exams, the claim will be calculated by adding summer 2021 and autumn 2021 invigilator costs, less ‘usual’ invigilation costs from 2019.
Evidence retained for autumn exam claims should therefore include:
- records of any actual summer 2021 invigilation costs - for example, all payments made to invigilators in relation to COVID-19
- evidence of the centre’s usual summer invigilation costs (where applicable) - we would expect this to be costs of invigilation for 2019
- records of autumn 2021 invigilation costs
For claims for invigilation costs for VTQ assessments in January, February and March 2022 which are not being used as a resit opportunity for students who received a teacher assessed grade in summer 2021, centres should retain evidence of additional invigilation costs caused by staff absence, including records of the costs incurred and reasons why extra invigilators were required.
5. Support for invigilator training
The DfE exam support service will provide financial support to schools and colleges to train invigilators to support the safe and secure delivery of autumn exams.
In many cases, schools and colleges will already have a pool of trained invigilators available to use for the autumn exams. In some instances, however, they may not have sufficient invigilators available. Centres should make local arrangements to book additional invigilator training if required.
5.1 Funding eligibility criteria for invigilator training costs
You will be able to claim back the cost of training any new invigilators for the safe and secure delivery of the autumn 2021 exam series and who carry out invigilation duties in those exams. Funding will be for new invigilators only, not for retraining or refresher training for those who are already trained as invigilators and need to ‘top up’ their qualifications before being able to invigilate the autumn exams. You will only be able to claim for those invigilators who provide invigilation services for the autumn 2021 exams and may be asked to provide evidence of this. You will not be able to claim for replacement invigilators needed at your centre for a ‘normal’ year and may be asked to provide evidence of this.
We would expect you to follow JCQ’s instructions for conducting exams or the appropriate awarding organisation’s recommendations on the number of invigilators required for each exam, unless you can demonstrate exceptional circumstances, for example those relating to reasonable adjustments or access arrangements. The service will not provide funding for travel costs. We would point centres to the wide range of online training available as providing good value for money and flexibility, particularly to centres with larger invigilator numbers.
You should keep records of exams administered and you may be asked to provide an explanation if you are claiming for training for high invigilator to student ratios.
When booking invigilator training, we would expect schools and colleges to evidence value for money. For example, The Exams Office can provide online training for up to 200 invigilators per centre for a £245 annual membership fee. If you need to spend more than this, we would need to see evidence of the reason for doing so (for example, why The Exams Office service (or an equivalent comparative offering) is not appropriate). Schools and colleges should check whether they are already members of The Exams Office as they should then already be eligible to receive this service.
5.2 What you’ll need to make a claim for invigilator training
You will need to keep evidence of your expenditure for inspection, including:
- records of autumn 2021 invigilation training costs for training new invigilators (for example, a payment made for online training)
- evidence that the new invigilators you have trained have provided invigilation services in your centre during the autumn exams