Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Are SATs in doubt?

The future of SATs was thrown into doubt yesterday as a damning report blamed a culture of complacency among testing officials for this year's marking fiasco. Two exam chiefs were suspended and a testing quango was scrapped as an inquiry into the late and chaotic delivery of results to 1.2million children revealed that the system runs on the mantra 'it'll be all right on the night'.

The peer appointed to investigate the marking shambles warned that tests for 11-year-olds next year would be 'difficult' to administer efficiently and welcomed a Government review of the testing system. Ministers scrapped SATs for 14-year-olds in the aftermath of the marking fiasco and have indicated that the current arrangements for 11-year-olds are not 'set in stone'.

The inquiry into the problems, led by Lord Sutherland, uncovered a catalogue of 'massive' failings by the Government's testing agency and the U.S. outfit it hired on a £156million five-year contract to organise marking and the delivery of results. But it also prompted calls for Children's Secretary Ed Balls to apologise and accept some responsibility for the fiasco after he repeatedly claimed it was at 'arm's length' to ministers.

Suspended exam chief Dr Ken Boston told the inquiry that Mr Balls' department was 'in no way' kept at a distance and was in fact intimately involved at all stages, from the granting of the contract to the setting of the tests.

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