Exam marking firm loses contract over late results

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The Independent Online

The American firm at the centre of this summer's exams fiasco for national curriculum tests has lost its five-year contract to mark the papers.

ETS Europe, which failed to deliver the results on time, has also agreed to repay £19.5m to the Qualification and Curriculum Authority, the tests watchdog, as a result of the chaos. In addition, it will cancel invoices and further charges of £4.6m to the watchdog.

The decision to dissolve the firm's five-year contract was welcomed by teachers' leaders. However, the firm is still expected to receive £15m, as the first year of its contract was worth £39m.

Last night there were no clues as to who would be administering next year's tests, with the QCA saying that details would be announced in the autumn.

Two of the biggest exam boards, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA) and the Oxford and Cambridge and Royal Society of Art (OCR), have said they want nothing to do with the contract.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "This is very welcome news and many schools who have still not received complete results will undoubtedly feel some sense of vindication."

However, he added: "The testing and examination system is sinking under its own weight and it is time for the Government to examine seriously how it can streamline the assessment regime and again make it fit for purpose."

Many teachers' leaders – backed by the Liberal Democrats – have argued that the Government should scrap the tests for 14-year-olds to ease the pressure on the system. Annette Brooke, Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman, said: "I hope that instead of finding another company to mark future key stage three test papers [for 14-year-olds] the Government will scrap these expensive and unnecessary tests altogether."

She added: "ETS demonstrated pure incompetence when it came to marking this year's tests. Many children are still waiting for their results which are now nearly six weeks late. Ministers must confirm that ETS will not receive a single penny for the fiasco."

Dr Ken Boston, chief executive of the QCA, said: "ETS Europe was selected due to the strength of their worldwide experience in delivering large-scale assessments. "

Zoubir Yazid, managing director of ETS Global BV, the parent company, said: "ETS Europe has apologised to schools for the delays in marking national curriculum assessments in England." He added that the quality of this year's marking had nevertheless been high.

Yesterday the QCA confirmed some scripts were still missing six weeks after the deadline for marking – 98.9 per cent of the tests had been delivered and 95.2 per cent of those for 14-year-olds. The Schools minister, Jim Knight, said: "I am very pleased that the contract has now been terminated. It is disappointing that the issues with this year's national curriculum test results have meant that the partnership between QCA and ETS must end early."

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