Sunday, 20 July 2008

SATs factory - anyone want a job?

A truly shocking report about the way our pupils' test papers are being handled. I'm sure this concerns only a tiny minority of papers. However, it is just the general disrespect for our pupils that is very frustrating.

A woman who went for a job as a cocktail waitress at a hotel where SATs papers are being marked was offered a job by the firm contracted to do the grading "on the spot". The American company at the centre of the SATS shambles has set up an emergency marking centre at the Hilton Hotel in Manchester to accommodate scores of staff and overcome the huge backlog of work. Hotel bar staff have also been offered work by ETS Europe. The marking company has virtually taken over the hotel, where staff are working in what one examiner called 'pressure-cooker' conditions.

As anger grew over the marking of the standard assessment tests for 11 and 14-year-olds, known as SATs, The Mail on Sunday was told:
• Hotel bar staff have been approached by ETS managers and offered work. A source at the hotel said a woman who went to an interview for a job as a cocktail waitress was hired 'on the spot' by ETS.
• Each staff member is costing the company more than £500 a day. Their food and £117 room bills are being met and they are paid more than £180 daily plus £30 spending money and £3 per paper marked. Staff who mark 60 papers can earn £360.
• On at least one occasion a bundle of papers was left in the restaurant to be later handed in to reception by a guest.

The news will shock thousands of parents already harbouring deep misgivings about the way ETS is handling their children's exams. ETS described the operation at the hotel as a 'marking panel'. A spokeswoman said: 'It is a panel of senior markers who are marking test papers. The test papers are then loaded online on to the marking computer system. We collect the test papers from schools across the country, take them to our central distribution centre and then send them on to the hotel. I cannot comment on the room rates. It would be inappropriate to discuss the pay rates of markers.' Asked if there was a backlog, she said: 'There are still papers being marked now.' The US firm, which was awarded a £165million Government contract to administer the 1.2 million SATs papers, last week admitted failings in the process.

ETS apologised for delaying the publication of thousands of results and also admitted that in some cases some pupils who sat tests were marked as absent.

The results were supposed to be issued on July 8, but officials admitted days before the deadline that they would be delayed by a week.

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