Advisers censured over timing of results

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Special advisers to the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, were censured yesterday for putting pressure on senior civil servants to publish poor national curriculum test results on the same day as GCSEs.

The Statistics Commission told the education department (DfES) it must protect civil servants from interference. Professor David Rhind, chairman of the Statistics Commission, said departmental e-mails indicated "some senior officials and advisers believed that their own views on the date of release for the statistics were relevant".

This followed an e-mail from Andrew McCully, DfES director of school standards, to a press officer, saying special advisers "positively wanted" the results to be released together.

Professor Rhind wrote in a letter to the DfES permanent secretary, David Bell, that the department's head of statistics, who decided the timing of the results, must be "fully protected" from pressure.

Mr Johnson, who has declared an interest in running for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party once John Prescott resigns, is facing calls from the Conservatives to discipline his advisers. David Willetts, the Tory education spokesman, said the department was "trying to hide the fact that reading standards had declined".