Saturday, 19 July 2008

Sats Results

From the BBC Website

The company behind the late delivery of England's school test results faces penalties that could cost it "tens of millions", the exams watchdog has said.
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.
Onscreen marking
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".
The watchdog was asked whether it was true that the reason many of the big exam boards had not bid for the test contract was that they regarded it as having been badly drawn up - and had written to tell him so.
He said he would have to look back over his correspondence from 2006.
But there had been five "very solid" bidders, shortlisted to three from which ETS had been selected after a highly thorough procurement process.
Dr Boston chose his words carefully but said there were "very significant penalty clauses" in the contract and the QCA would be seeking commercial and legal remedies from ETS.
He said there was "reputational damage" in relation to "a failure at this level" that would concern any large company.
"That probably is as significant as the financial penalties which could run into the tens of millions," he said.
Ultimately ETS could lose the three-year contract, he said, but the QCA's approach at present was to work with it to solve the problems.
The committee also asked Dr Boston to send it his own contract of employment.
He was asked by the committee chair, Barry Sheerman, whether he was saying the blame for what had happened lay with the private sector company's shortcomings.
Dr Boston said there were three parties involved:
The government, which in 2006 had determined what it wanted from the tests
The QCA may well have made mistakes too which might have caused problems
ETS may also have made some very significant mistakes
He said his staff had been "very hands on" in dealing with problems as they had unearthed them.
All these matters would be investigated by the inquiry into the failure, to be led by former Ofsted chief Lord Sutherland.
The marking of the Key Stage 2 tests (taken by 11-year-olds) was complete, he said, and almost all results would be published on Tuesday.
The Key Stage 3 results (14-year-olds) were substantially complete in maths and science but English took longer to mark and it could be into the school summer holidays before all are available.

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