Fears of GCSE and A-level results delay as union announces exam board strike

The grading of thousands of this summer’s GCSE and A-level results could be disrupted after staff at the AQA exam board announced a 72-hour strike following a below-inflation pay rise offer.

About 180 staff represented by Unison at AQA’s biggest office in Manchester plan the three-day stoppage, from Friday 29 to Sunday 31 July, while the awarding of exam grades is under way.

Exam results were scheduled to be released from mid-August.

About a million students each year take exam papers and qualifications set and marked by AQA, which serves England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including more than half of all GCSEs and A-levels.

AQA said it had “robust plans” in place to ensure any strike action would not disrupt the timely release of next month’s results. “It’s a shame that Unison is claiming otherwise, as this is wrong and only serves needlessly to alarm students and teachers,” an AQA spokesperson said.

Unison said AQA staff had no option but to strike after they were offered a 3% pay rise, well below the current 9.4% inflation rate. It follows a 0.6% pay rise last year.

“Pay has been falling behind ​prices for years and 3% isn’t a ​wage rise – with costs spiralling it’s a pay cut. Things are so bad staff ​are fear​ful they’​ll no longer be able to make ends meet,” said Unison’s ​north-west regional organiser, Lizanne Devonport.

She added: “Workers only strike as a last resort. They’d rather be doing the jobs that they’re proud of. They don’t want to disrupt students and know how important exam results are to them.”

Unison said most of its AQA members in the Manchester office earned salaries at the lower end of a £20,000-£60,000 range.

“We don’t want to disadvantage candidates. We value them and want them to succeed. But we have been trying to get a fair deal for months and have not been listened to,” said one AQA worker.

AQA said: “We’re giving our people a pay rise that’s affordable and higher than many organisations, so it’s disappointing that Unison has decided to take strike action. The vast majority of our staff don’t support a strike, as only around 5% of our workforce and well under half of Unison’s own members voted for it.

“Indeed, nearly nine out of 10 of our staff have already opted into our new pay framework and agreed to the pay rise, including many Unison members, so it’s hard to see what this strike is trying to achieve.”


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