Thursday, 31 July 2008


This is a brilliant website with links to several Maths games. The links are organised according to the area of the subject.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Another fabulous Maths website with lots of ideas and games which change every month.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Vote of no confidence for ETS?

The Daily Mail reports that the testing firm at the centre of the SATs marking fiasco has been stripped of its responsibility for checking disputed results. England's exams quango stepped in to take over re-marking from ETS Europe - a move which has been interpreted by teachers' leaders as a vote of no confidence.
Less than a week ago, Children's Secretary Ed Balls, said the quality of marking was at least as good as in previous years. But critics said the National Assessment Agency's intervention betrayed a fear that this year's marking was not up to scratch .

The U.S. firm was given a £156million contract to run the national testing system. It has already been told it faces fines and a termination of its five-year deal, after thousands of results were delayed, missing or incorrect. About one in six teenagers still does not have English test results.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: 'This is a massive vote of no confidence in ETS. The contract cannot reform itself. They can't even be trusted with re-marking. This is also the first time a Government agency has indicated, tacitly, that there's a question over the quality of marking. They wouldn't take away remarking if they didn't have anxiety about the quality.'

Monday, 28 July 2008

The Dark Knight

Last night I went to see the superb new film "The Dark Knight". This is the sequel to Batman Begins.

Firstly, I wanted to say how fantastic the film is! It really is a gripping, exciting film with superb performances from everyone involved. Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker was immense, and I quite agree with the Oscar buzz surrounding his performance. What a shame it was to lose an actor of his talent.

But my main purpose of mentioning this film is about the certificate. I cannot believe this film has a 12A certificate. A 12A means that a child of say, 10, can see the film as long as they are accompanied by an adult! Believe me, no child of even age 13 should see this very violent film. A 15 certificate would have been much more appropriate. The actual violence included in the film is strong enough, but it is the implied violence (much of it involving knives) and the message that a man can get away with such acts make it a very bad idea to allow young children to see this film.

Believe me, the film is superb. But I would advise against anyone considering taking their young children to see it...

Saturday, 26 July 2008

A flood of praise for previously flooded school

I enjoyed hearing the news that Cottingham Croxby Primary School has been described as a good school by Ofsted in a recent inspection.

The school in Hull was hut by severe floods last year. Pupils and staff have spent a year in mobile classrooms, working around building work during a £2million refurbishment. Then the dreaded phone call was answered. "I told Ofsted they just couldn't come," head Dave Ledgard explained. "I said it would crucify us because morale was strained and it would be grossly unfair to judge us in that situation." Well done for having the guts to stand up for yourselves! Ofsted called back later to agree to a delayed inspection.

The inspection in May was a triumph. The school was rated good and the inspectors praised the staff's "dedication, ingenuity and stamina."

Friday, 25 July 2008

Marking maturity

There was an interesting article in the TES today, by Justine Chan. She described how she felt that the English SATs were marking maturity rather than ability.

"A number of children who read 'The Hottest Day' interpreted scenes incorrectly. When Garnet's father enters the room, hot, dusty and irritable, I suspect that more than a few of them identified with a father who would enter a room and be angry enough with the situation to take it out on the family. In the story, Garnet's father is depressed, not angry. So, no marks for the pupils who felt that he was ready to shout at everyone; no marks for a child taking their own life experience into account and misreading the text, simply because they were too young to detach themselves from the passage in the story. I could not see what this had to do with their reading ability, yet it would lose marks.

I began to feel that the nub of the problem was that they actually assess maturity - the ability to read a text and see into the minds of an adult and give an adult response."

Another interesting point she raised was:
"My one day of training with ETS, the American company in charge of the marking, was intense but thorough. At the beginning, we sat in teams of about 10, with an experienced manager, and were asked to complete the reading comprehension booklet ourselves. Our work was checked and the correct responses 'cascaded' to everyone.

Immediately, I noticed that not one of the teachers on my table had achieved full marks. we were a mixture of age and experience: some were retired, some in current practice, but we were all qualified teachers. How could everyone have made mistakes in a paper meant for 11-year-olds?"

A very good question, and one I'd love to know the answer to...

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Pupils being turned into robots

I can imagine a few young children become very excited by the title of this post, but in reality I would agree with Mrs Ward who claims that the testing regime is damaging our children.

A report in the Daily Mail says that children are being turned into 'little robots' by the primary school testing regime. Teachers warn that staff no longer have time to read stories to pupils, hear their news from home or help with problems.

Lesley Ward, a teacher with 32 years of experience, said primary schools have been turned into mini versions of secondaries with a rigid 'almost Stalinist' timetable. Mrs Ward blamed SATs tests and pressure on teachers to maintain league table positions. She said that while there could be no return to 1970s-style education, where teachers could largely do as they pleased and thousands of pupils failed to learn the three Rs, the changes had gone too far.

'We need to take the best bits from the present and the past,' said Mrs Ward, vice-president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. She said that when she first started work, teachers had more time to care for children. 'If they were upset they used to come and sit on your knee and tell us,' she said. 'Now they can't. We have turned them into little robots that have got to be a certain level by a certain age and it's horrible. The problem is with SATs and league tables. It is a mini-secondary curriculum.'

She added that children are tired by 3pm, yet Government childcare policies can see them spend ten hours a day at school. Children who attend breakfast clubs can start at 8am, while afterschool care and clubs and societies often finish at 6pm.

Mrs Ward, who began teaching in 1975, said that pupils could be rigorously assessed without the need for externally marked tests. 'It's almost a Stalinist regime,' she said.

Her concerns were echoed by Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers. He said: 'The pendulum has swung too far. We need to recognise the value of taking time to enjoy and create freedom into the curriculum.'

A spokesman for the Department of Children, Schools and Families said: 'Of course primary schools need to strike the right balance between learning, play and other activities and the best schools do this well. The National Curriculum offers teachers considerable flexibility in how they structure the school day.'

Monday, 21 July 2008

Children could face even more tests in Year Seven

The Daily Mail reports that more than half a million children may have to resit English and maths tests next term amid claims that the SATs system is on the brink of collapse. Secondary teachers are expected to give new arrivals from primary school a series of fresh tests because the SATs marking fiasco has shattered confidence in the reliability of results.

The revelation came with talks already under way to sever the five-year, £165million contract with the U.S. testing firm ETS. Ministers are refusing to say publicly that the company will be sacked because they are anxious to avoid the spectacle of taxpayers having to compensate it for breaking its contract early. But the axing of ETS (Educational Testing Service) is seen as crucial to restoring confidence in the SATs system.

The SATs results were supposed to be issued on July 8, but last night some were still being marked by an emergency panel being put up by ETS at a hotel near Manchester Airport. The work is expected to continue into tomorrow.

As senior MPs called for schools and pupils to be given compensation, it emerged that 800 schools have already lodged appeals against results. Thousands more - one in four overall - are expected to request a review before the deadline passes.

Next year, ministers may have to rely on class teachers to mark SATs, ending 13 years of externally-marked tests. This is because the Government has only months to run a complex tendering process to replace ETS.

Meanwhile more secondary schools are preparing to run their own tests for 11-year-olds, as some already do. They need accurate results to determine which classes and ability sets the newcomers should be placed in.

Dr John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, which represents secondary heads, said they were concerned the tests were no longer a reliable reflection of pupils' ability. He believes almost every school will use extra testing this autumn, affecting morethan 500,000 children.

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.

End of year lessons...

I enjoyed this cartoon in the TES!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Year Six prepare to leave

I really enjoyed this comment in the TES:

Last hurrah for Year 6: sadness and celebrationMike KentPublished: 18 July 2008

It's the end of another summer term and time for the Year 6 leavers' concert. Music and drama are high priorities at our school. The idea of a leavers' concert started five years ago, when a handful of children thought it might be nice to entertain the school with a few songs, a couple of dances, and a sketch lampooning the staff, which, since they were leaving that day, they knew would not entail them being told off.

The event just seemed to grow each year. As our standards of music and performance climbed higher, so did the quality of the leavers' concert. Our 2008 preparations began early because last year's cohort had set a high standard, and - a first - in 2007 Year 6 parents were invited too. Many came because their children had talked excitedly about the concert, but mostly because their sons and daughters had been very high achievers. The adults were grateful and wanted to share their children's last moments at Comber Grove.

The entire school crowded into the hall that we've made into our little theatre, the lights on the stage fired up, and the chattering died down to an expectant whisper. As the show began, I realised just how accomplished our children had become during their years with us. With the help of their teachers, they had designed an enormously varied programme: Indian dancing, comedy wrestling that had the infants in fits, African songs and dances, genuinely funny sketches, solo and group singing of current songs, which were tuneful and beautifully choreographed.

The staffroom sketch was, as usual, greeted with hoots of laughter. But this one was cleverer than before. How well these children know us, I thought. Our mannerisms, our personalities, but this performance seemed to convey greater affection - and a little sadness. They knew we liked them, and they liked us too. The sketch ended with a child impersonating a retiring member of staff, cartwheeling across the stage and shouting "I'm free! Oh God, I'm free!"

Then, back to the music, and most moving of all, the five girls we called our Camberwell Beauties. One of our teachers heard them singing together in the playground two years ago, inventing harmonies to a song we'd taught them in choir. She took time out of her lunch hour to work with them, finding songs that would suit their voices. When she left, other teachers took over, pushing the boundaries and not letting them get away with merely regurgitating fashionable pop songs. And now, watching this concert, I was hearing a stunningly beautiful rendition of "Down to the River to Pray", each of the five singing a different harmony. How sad that they were leaving.

And then the children lined up on stage for their finale. "I want to be ... a footballer," said Michael, the first in the row. "I want to be ... a designer," said Rachel. And so on, round the circle, each child voicing hopes and dreams for the future. A few would live their dreams. Many wouldn't. But for this brief moment in time, the world was theirs.

The concert ended, the rest of the school went out to play, and Year 6 climbed down from the stage, quiet and subdued. The moment had come; they were about to leave us. Many were in tears and I hugged each one. They were my children, I would miss them, and I was reminded, once again, how privileged we are to be teachers.

Friday, 18 July 2008

SATs results expected to fall

The TES reports that early signs are showing that this year's scores will remain static and results fall below government targets

Provisional key stage 2 results are still due to be published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) on August 5.

Early indications from eight local authorities, covering almost 900 schools, show the results will remain static this year at 80 per cent of pupils reaching the expected level 4 in English, 77 per cent in maths and 88 per cent in science.
Other authorities have said results are not secure. Some report that pupils have been marked as absent. In one school, all Year 6 pupils were marked absent for one paper.

Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which oversees testing, was called before the Commons select committee on Monday.
He revealed that 10,000 emails from markers had gone unanswered by ETS Europe, the marking company, that his officials were forced to set up a call centre to cope with complaints from markers, and that fines for ETS could run into tens of millions of pounds. But he added that the marking of KS2 was now 100 per cent complete.

Two days later he had to apologise. He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he was "bitterly disappointed" to find that another 384 scripts had been discovered. "The reality is we cannot have next year a repeat of what happened this year," he said. "It has to be addressed."

The papers were due back in schools a week ago last Tuesday, but then the National Assessment Agency said the KS2 results would not be ready until last Tuesday, and the KS3 results until today.

At one stage last week, seven emergency marking centres were in use as examiners raced to finish marking allocations from ETS.

If the results do stay still, it will mean the Government has missed the final chance to reach its goal of 85 per cent of pupils reaching level 4 in English and maths. But a static score would be some relief to ministers as the DCSF's own statisticians have warned the scores could dip by two percentage points as a result of the end of "borderlining" - the process of checking pupils' results if they fall just below a national curriculum level.

From next year, the targets will be changed to reflect a combined score for English and maths, and progress throughout primary school.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Marking discrepancies

A headmistress is demanding her pupils' SATs papers be re-marked after an exam paper littered with grammatical mistakes scored higher than a literate, fluently written one.
Janis Burdin, head of Moss Side Primary School in Chorley, Lancashire released two examples - by Child A and Child B - which had both been awarded a Level 4. But Child A received one more mark overall - despite woeful literacy.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said his union had received an 'unprecedented' numbers of calls from members unhappy with the grades they were getting back.
In the Moss Side Primary School discrepancy, Child A wrote:
If he wasent doing enthing els heel help his uncle Herry at the funfair during the day. And had stoody at nigh.
Becoues he invented a lot of new rides he won a prize. He didn’t live with his mum he lived with his wife.

Child B wrote:
Quickly, it became apparent that Pip was a fantastic rider: a complete natural. But it was his love of horses that led to a tragic accident. An accident that would change his life forever. At the age of 7, he was training for a local competition when his horse, Mandy, swerved sideways unexpectedly, throwing Pip on to the ground, paralysed.
Both 11-year-olds were awarded five marks out of a possible eight for sentence structure. Child A received eight marks out of 12 for composition and effect, while child B received seven.

Headmistress Janis Burdin has labelled the marking of SATs 'absolutely off the radar' and 'pathetic'. Mrs Burdin said: 'These two papers were both given Level 4. I would have given one a 5 and one a 3. These are the most extreme differences but there are many more discrepancies. 'The marking, especially for the writing exams, is absolutely off the radar. The whole thing seems random. I would have expected a third of our pupils to get Level 5 but only one did. We've spent hours looking at this wondering what to do. From what I've heard, the training of the markers has been unsatisfactory. We got our papers back last week but we are not releasing the writing exam results - the children would be mortified if they saw what they got. In 2003 we got re-marks on all the English papers and eight grades were changed. This time it's worse. It's absolutely pathetic. I can't tell you how cross I am.'
Mrs Burdin added, 'It has been an absolute fiasco from day one. The new system is all online yet it went down straight away after the first exam on May 12 and when every school in the country rang the helpline - that crashed too.'
She added: 'I will pursue this until they are sent back and re-marked. The children and staff work really hard and we rise and fall by our SATs - it is the first thing that an Ofsted inspection looks at.'

Heads call for abolition of SATs

The Daily Mail reports that around one in four schools in England are still waiting for SAT results as pressure grows on the government to sack the US company responsible for marking millions of school test papers.

Adding the government's woes teachers' leaders are refusing to accept results blighted by a marking fiasco.

Furious heads demanded the abolition of the testing regime and associated league tables and prepared to lodge appeals against this year's results in unprecedented numbers. They claimed the system was 'collapsing in on itself' as more evidence emerged of delayed results, erratic marking, missing papers, unqualified markers and administrative chaos.

Thousands of primary and secondary schools have yet to receive a full set of results after major logistical problems and computer glitches.

There were calls for an inquiry into the shambles to determine whether the results should stand or be annulled.

They came as the Conservatives demanded the sacking of ETS, the U.S. firm awarded a £165 million five-year contract to run the testing system in 2006.

It was claimed yesterday that ETS instructed examiners to spend just ten minutes marking essay-based English scripts. With a growing backlog of unmarked exams threatening to delay results, one examiner said they were told to check 45 English papers in seven-and-a-half hours. Results in tests for 11 and 14-year-olds were meant to be issued on July 8 but officials admitted four days beforehand they would be delayed by a week.

But days after the second deadline, some schools are reporting whole batches of scripts missing and pupils inexplicably marked as absent despite taking the tests.

Ministers have already admitted more than 120,000 teenagers will have to wait until next term to get their English results.

But while the initial concerns focused on delays in getting results to pupils, schools have since reported apparent inconsistencies in marking. This is thought to be linked to systems brought in by ETS to check markers are examining properly according to the marks scheme. It has been claimed markers were allowed to continue examining this year despite registering more errors than usual. It is also said the new online system for checking the accuracy of markers is less effective because it does not require them to demonstrate their accuracy on the actual scripts they have been assigned to mark.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Fiasco, fiasco, fiasco

I have never heard the word 'fiasco' used as much as in the last few weeks whilst the awful treatment of our pupils and their test papers is big in the news. But, I can't really think of a better word for the situation.

The Daily Mail reports that a senior MP claimed teenagers straight out of school are marking papers. Barry Sheerman told ministers he had evidence 'people who have recently passed their A-levels' were hired to mark English, maths and science scripts.

Most primary schools received their results yesterday, and head teachers have already noted concern over discrepancies in assessment.

Mr Sheerman, chairman of the Commons schools committee, made the revelation as Children's Secretary Ed Balls admitted that at least 120,000 pupils will not get all their SATs results by the end of term. But he refused to apologise, despite accepting that he carries ultimate responsibility for national testing. At a meeting of the schools committee yesterday, Mr Sheerman told Mr Balls he was aware that ETS had hired 'not graduates, but people who have recently passed their A-levels, to mark papers'. He believed the marking had taken place in the Nottinghamshire area and involved Key Stage Three tests for 14-year-olds. He said he had raised the issue on Tuesday with Ofqual head Kathleen Tattersall. 'They were astonished when I produced a piece of evidence which I know to be true,' said Mr Sheerman. 'An agency hired a graduate to mark science, maths and English papers. He was the most experienced member of the team.'
It also included non-graduates, he said. Rules state that markers should be either trained teachers or on training programmes.

ETS admitted an agency had been used to help source markers, and said that it is investigating the allegation that untrained staff have been assessing papers.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

SATs results

Hopefully you have received your SATs results today. I believe that some schools haven't.

We did receive ours. I am pleased with the results and the children have done well.

But I'd be interested to know how our results compare with others'.

In Maths, our Level 5 results are down, compared to last year, as are our Science results.

In English, our reading results are about the same as last year's (despite what I thought was a harder paper), but our writing results are up -massively. We had two children who received 50 out of 50, and several who only lost a couple of points in writing. Our top score in English was 96%! Now, I wouldn't ever want to detract from our pupils' achievements, but I am very surprised that anyone could score such high marks!

Well done children!

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.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Swedish school revolution could happen here...

There is an interesting report about David Cameron's idea to use Sweden's school revolution in this country should (sorry, when) the Tories come to power.

After having been the Stockholm recently (albeit for a stag weekend) I would recommend following any strategy the country has. It is a fantastic country and I would be interested in hearing anyone else's thoughts about this education idea.

Shakespeare for all ages and stages

"Shakespeare for all ages and stages" is a booklet published by the DCSF. It aims to enhance the educational experience of Shakespeare for young people by providing a map of opportunities for lifelong learning and pleasure in his work. It supports progression by ensuring that each year and Key Stage builds on what has gone before and helps to prepare for what follows.

The booklet includes a framework of opportunities, suggesting significant experiences in Shakespeare from Key Stage to Key Stage, as well as yearly learning objectives linked closely to the National Strategies' Frameworks. It contains suggested teaching approaches designed to help teachers deliver learning objectives in lively and engaging but manageable ways. They exemplify active, imaginative and participatory approaches related, where possible, to whole Shakespeare plays.

It offers teachers – from the Early Years Foundation Stage through to post-16 – ideas for working with Shakespeare's stagecraft and language as well as ways in to the historical and theatrical contexts in which he worked.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

SATs results are expected to fall

The BBC reports that the pass rate in England's national Sats tests could fall by up to 2% this year after a change to the marking system. A practice known as "borderlining", where papers were re-marked if they fell just below the expected level, has been dropped this year. The exams regulators had recommended the change, saying there were other ways of assuring quality of marking.

Exam papers which were marked as being just over the pass level were not re-marked. A study by the National Assessment Agency (NAA) - which now regulates the tests, taken by 11 and 14-year-olds - concluded that the change could lead to a drop in the numbers meeting the levels expected by the government.

A statement on the website of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) says: "Analysis of results data for previous years by NAA allows us to estimate the impact of the process changes. This analysis indicates that the removal of borderlining in 2008 is expected to cause a fall in the proportion of pupils achieving the expected level by up to two percentage points."

It predicts the impact of the change will vary between Key Stage (age group), level and subject and that English will be affected more than mathematics or science.

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said: "The credibility of the exam system has been put in danger by this whole process. Ministers cannot escape their responsibility for tests which parents and teachers say they can no longer trust."

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.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

SATs results to be delayed

The Daily Mail reports that more than a million children will get their SATs results late because of administrative chaos, the Government admitted yesterday. Children's Secretary Ed Balls said that more time is needed to complete the marking of papers for 11 and 14-year-olds and to 'resolve technical issues'.

Results for Key Stage Two are expected to be received by schools a week late on July 15, and for Key Stage Three by the end of that week. The tests for 11-year-olds are seen as the most crucial as they determine primary schools' ranking in official Government league tables.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has ordered an enquiry into the marking delay as more than a million children may not find out their results before the end of term. The data is also passed to secondary schools, enabling teachers to decide how to group new arrivals in key subjects if they use setting. An independent inquiry into the reason for the delay has begun and will report to the qualifications regulator Ofqual. The watchdog has already accused the National Assessment Agency, which oversees the testing, of letting teachers and pupils down.

The marking shambles is an embarrassment for the Government and has prompted teaching unions to demand that Sats tests are scrapped. Teachers assessing the papers have been warning for months of administrative problems at ETS Europe, the firm handling the marking for the first time on behalf of the NAA. Senior examiners have also claimed that quality control is weaker this year, so pupils may receive less accurate results.

The Times Educational Supplement yesterday revealed that marking of Key Stage Two English and Key Stage Three reading and maths was continuing into the weekend. This is despite the fact that all the test papers were due back in primary and secondary schools by Tuesday. The problems are believed to be worst in English.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Sex education to begin at age 4

The Daily Mail reports that Children as young as four are set to be given compulsory sex education in primary school. They will be taught the names of body parts and basic ideas about different relationships.

Government advisers claim that 'gradual education' from such a young age would help to stop children from rushing into sex when they are older. They argue that the sex education that children receive in science classes does not go far enough.

But the recommendations caused a storm of protest yesterday, with family campaigners claiming that the views of parents and teachers are being ignored. Norman Wells, director of the pressure group Family and Youth Concern, said: 'What this is really all about is the sex education establishment trying to force schools to do something many parents - and many teachers - are uncomfortable with.'

At present, primary heads and governors decide whether or not to provide sex education and what it should involve beyond the compulsory science requirements laid down by the national curriculum. They must have a policy on whether or not they provide sex education. If they do provide it, usually in personal, social and health education (PSHE) classes, parents have the right to withdraw their children.

But the FPA - formerly the Family Planning Association - the sexual health advice service Brook and the Sex Education Forum are recommending the introduction of compulsory lessons. They are taking part in a Government review of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in primary and secondary schools. The charities sit on a panel, which is currently examining 'the right age to begin teaching what the key messages are and content that young people should receive at each key stage'. They have pre-empted publication of their final report later this month and publicly announced their recommendation for statutory sex education from primary school onwards. This would bring sex and relationship education on to the curriculum alongside other compulsory subjects such as maths and English. Brook chief executive Simon Blake said: 'All the evidence shows that if you start sex and relationships education early - before children start puberty, before they feel sexual attraction - they start having sex later. They are much more likely to use contraception and practise safe sex.'

Anna Martinez, head of the Sex Education Forum, confirmed they are recommending making PSHE statutory to give it 'the high status it deserves as an essential part of all children's education'.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Another 'Balls' up?

The Daily Mail reports that Schools are to be judged on how they improve children's 'wellbeing' by tackling obesity, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy. Teachers will be expected to monitor and record up to 31 detailed aspects of their pupils' lives at home and at school.

Headteachers criticised the new guidance, saying that schools cannot be held responsible for the 'ills of all society'. And education experts accused the Government of meddling in the work of schools and expecting teachers to do the work of parents and social workers.

The controversial plans come as Children's Secretary Ed Balls launches a clampdown on hundreds of 'coasting' schools that are not doing enough to raise standards. He is introducing new legal powers that will force complacent local authorities to take action, even against schools that have good exam results but are not displaying sufficient progress year-on-year.

In addition, the Government is planning to introduce 'strong school level indicators' that will measure how much the country's primaries and secondaries are contributing to pupils' well-being.