600,000 pupils in limbo as Government delays test results

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The Independent Online

The Government has been forced to delay the publication of results of national tests taken by 600,000 14-year-olds this summer after delays and complaints about the standards of marking in English exams.

The Government has been forced to delay the publication of results of national tests taken by 600,000 14-year-olds this summer after delays and complaints about the standards of marking in English exams.

The Department for Education and Skills yesterday announced that the English test results would not be released as scheduled on 24 August because of concerns about the quality of the data. Publication of results in maths and science will go ahead as planned, along with all the test results of primary school pupils, a spokesman said.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the exam regulator, said that all schools now had their results but apologised for the delays that have affected the test after the introduction of new methods aimed at improving the accuracy of marking.

A spokesman for the DfES said it had been forced to delay publication because of problems with the English results.

Last week, headteachers warned that they expected about 25,000 teenagers to see their English marks go up after schools demanded that their papers be re-marked because of "haywire" marking.

The national results will come in for particular scrutiny this year. The pupils who took them were the first to complete all three years of the Government's strategy aimed at improving the early years of secondary education between the ages of 11 to 14.

For the first time this year, each English paper was marked by two examiners instead of one. One marked answers to the reading question, while the other dealt with the writing paper.

The change was intended to improve the accuracy of the marks awarded to candidates. Experts believe that if examiners focus on marking a single answer, rather than several on a paper, their judgements are more reliable. However, the new methods caused delays with about 170 schools failing to have their results returned by the July deadline.

But headteachers have warned that the problem runs much deeper than late results and argued that "haywire" marking has cast doubt on the entire set of English results.

Martin Ward, the Secondary Heads Association's deputy general secretary, had warned that the unreliability of this year's results would destroy teenagers' faith in the exam system.

A QCA spokesman said: "There was a delay. We apologise to schools but the important thing was to get the results to schools, which we have done."

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