Monday, 14 July 2008

Fine for ETS Europe?

The BBC writes that the company behind the late delivery of England's school test results faces penalties that could cost it "tens of millions". Giving evidence to MPs, Ken Boston of the QCA, revealed that at one point there were 10,000 e-mail enquiries from markers unanswered by ETS Europe.

Some 70 staff from the National Assessment Agency (NAA) went in to help and a second call centre was set up. ETS has apologised already and says the situation will not be repeated. Dr Boston told the children, schools and families select committee that there had been weekly meetings involving the NAA and ETS since last September and daily meetings since the beginning of May.

But ETS repeatedly assured the regulator that it would deliver the results by the 8 July deadline, despite the widespread anecdotal evidence that all was not well. It was not until 26 June that it had formally notified him that it would not do so, he said.

A concern now was next year's test series. "And the clock is ticking - it's a two-and-a-half year development cycle," he said. He suggested the answer was on-screen marking, now used for more than half of GCSE examinations and many of the A-levels - but not these "key stage" tests. "We need to move as quickly as possible to on-screen marking for key stage tests: fast, reliable, secure."

This was the one aspect of what he famously described on his appointment as the "cottage industry" of England's exam system that had not changed in recent years. But it would not be possible to implement this for 2009.

He stressed that ETS had been responsible for the logistics of the operation. The people doing the marking were essentially the same as in previous years and there was no reason at the moment to believe the quality of the marking was in doubt "despite the stories and fears that are abroad".

Tomorrow is officially D-Day where we find out how the children got on in their tests. It's a shame that the results are late, but I wish all Year Six pupils good luck in getting the results they worked so hard for.

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