TEACHING trade unions have condemned the government’s use of private contractors, hired to mark school children’s ‘SATs’ exam papers.
The condemnation was in response to the revelation that Self Assessment Tests were being returned to schools with them unmarked, and recorded, wrongly, that pupils were absent from the test.
It has emerged that this clearly wasn’t the case, with a number of school heads expressing their anger at inaccuracies in the results statements published online.
The Labour chairman of the House of Commons schools committee, which has been in emergency session, Barry Sheerman, told the committee he had been given evidence that Educational Testing Services Europe (ETS Europe) was employing students to mark papers who had not yet passed their A levels.
NUT acting general secretary Christine Blower has condemned ‘the catalogue of confusion and errors on the part of the contractor’.
She added: ‘Enormous sums of money are wasted on high-stakes tests every year. They contribute nothing to pupils’ learning and narrow the curriculum. The NUT has long argued for the abolition of Sats.’
Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said: ‘It is clear that this key responsibility of the state should not be handed over to private sector profit-making organisations.
‘Tax payers should ask if this is the best way to spend public money.’
The latest revelations undermine the claim by government exams chief Ken Boston to MPs on Monday, that all primary school test scripts had already been marked.
Giving evidence, MPs on the schools committee on Wednesday, Education Secretary Ed Balls defended Monday’s claims by QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) chairman Boston.
Balls said that Boston’s statement that ‘all the material that required marking had been marked’ meant in the sense that it was known about.
The QCA said that where pupils were wrongly indicated as absent on the online results table, this was due to incomplete online pupil attendance registers, in other words schools had failed to log all their children.
But in his evidence to MPs, Boston also revealed that at one point there were 10,000 e-mail enquiries from markers unanswered by ETS Europe.
One Hampshire head said that when his school’s science results were published online on Tuesday, 26 of the children were incorrectly recorded as having been absent.
He add that on Wednesday ‘the 26 science scripts arrived unmarked’.
Other heads said they had had batches of papers returned unmarked.