Friday, 1 August 2008

Heads' anger at publication of SATs results

The BBC writes the government's decision to publish England's provisional primary school Sats results next week "beggars belief", head teachers have said. They warn that widespread concerns still remain about late and missing results, and the quality of marking.

The National Association of Head Teachers says ministers are issuing the results prematurely.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said statisticians advised him publication should go ahead despite the problems.

According to the latest figures released by the contractor responsible for marking the tests, Educational Testing Service (ETS), 99% of Key Stage 2 results "are now available to schools". But it is not clear how many primary schools are still missing a complete set of marks. Head teachers have also warned of pupils wrongly marked absent for the tests.

In a letter to the chairman of the Commons schools select committee, Mr Balls said publication of the results was a matter for his department's head of statistics, who had advised publication should go ahead as planned on 5 August.

NAHT assistant senior secretary Kathryn James said: "The quality of the marking process is highly suspect, and unfairly casts doubts on the professionalism and the integrity of school leaders, their staff, and the laudable efforts of the pupils in their care." She added that her union had received more than 300 e-mails highlighting examples of maladministration and inaccuracies in the test results and that these may only be the "tip of the iceberg" in terms of concerns about the results. She said one school told her it had received 7 of the 87 papers it was supposed to receive while another had a complete set of papers for another school. Another head had warned that more than 100 of his maths pupils were wrongly down as absent for the test.
She warned that the NAHT would not see its members subjected to the rigours of an Ofsted inspection that may be predicated upon these "dubious results". "Until schools are satisfied that all returned scripts have been submitted for full and thorough review, with marks and levels accordingly adjusted, NAHT members will continue to have absolutely no confidence or trust in the reliability of this year's KS2 and KS3 test data," Ms James added.

But Mr Balls insisted that Ofqual had advised that, as of 28 July, there were no widespread concerns about the quality of marks that would justify withholding the results at a national level.
An Ofqual spokesman said it recognised that the confidence of teachers, parents, pupils and the wider public had been damaged by the test problems. "Ofqual will be closely monitoring the review process to ensure that it is carried through accurately and objectively, so that pupils get the marks their work deserves," he said.

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