Tuesday, 8 July 2008

More SATs frustration

The BBC writes that head teachers are reporting "widespread problems" with the quality of marking in the delayed Sats test results being returned to schools in England. "The row is only beginning," says Mick Brookes, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers.

Mr Brookes is urging heads to give parents the assessments of teachers, as well as any disputed test results. The National Assessment Agency has given assurances that the marking will be as good as last year's. The NAHT head teachers' union says that schools are reporting concerns about the reliability of the marking in scripts being returned.

Mr Brookes says that he will advise schools to issue these returned test results as "provisional" - and to accompany these results with the teachers' assessments of the levels achieved by pupils. It is so inconsistent and also obviously wrong. There are scripts that are vastly different in standard but that have scored the same marks. In nine out of the 36 spelling papers there were mistakes marked as correct ("articals" being a favourite).

This was a reflection of the level of concern over disparities and mistakes in the marking of test papers taken by 11 and 14 year olds, he said. "We're getting calls about the quality of marking. In one case there was no marking at all, the papers sent back to the school were completely blank," said the heads' leader.

The National Assessment Agency has promised that the marking will be as reliable as last year - a promise repeated on Monday by Schools Minister Jim Knight. "Marking accuracy will be checked more frequently, at up to five rather than two intervals during marking (as was the case in 2007). These checks will confirm that marking is being maintained at the required national standard," says a statement from the NAA. "The NAA is confident that marking quality is at least as high as in previous years." But Mr Brookes dismissed the NAA exams watchdog as "venturing into the absurd" in its response to the marking problems. "This is a complete mess. There are widespread concerns in every area," he said, predicting that there would be many appeals against the marking and further disputes when they were used as the basis for school league tables.

Mr Brookes said schools should be given budgets to commission their own external marking - rather than the £156m paid as a five-year contract to the private contractor.

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