Test marking fiasco 'will lead to record number of appeals'

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The Independent Online

The crisis over this year's national curriculum tests deepened yesterday with headteachers warning there would be record numbers of appeals over marking this year. Worries about the quality of marking of tests for pupils aged 11 and 14 threaten to cast a shadow over the results – which are due to be announced officially early next month.

The crisis is leading to growing demands for the tests for 14-year-olds to be scrapped altogether because the system is under such a strain. Yesterday, when the first results of the 14-year-olds' tests were given to schools, it emerged that one in four papers still had to be marked.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders – which represents secondary school headteachers, said the number of appeals was "almost certain to rocket". He added: "The Government and Ofsted [the education standards watchdog] use the SATs [national curriculum test] results to make judgements about whether schools will fail their inspections and heads can lose their jobs as a result. The results need to be accurate and schools will be much angrier at lack of accuracy than delay."

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said his office had been "inundated" by more than 100 emails from members who had not had their results or were worried about the quality of the marking.

He has written to Christine Gilbert, chief schools inspector and chief executive of Ofsted, asking her to tell inspectors not to rely on this year's test results in reaching their judgements on schools. Latest complaints from schools include one from Richard Lane, a headteacher in Tamworth, Staffordshire, who said that markers had incorrectly totalled the marks on two maths papers. According to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the national curriculum watchdog, one in five primary schools is still missing results. Earlier in the week, Ken Boston, its chief executive, told MPs marking was "100 per cent complete in all subjects".

The test results for 14-year-olds will be delayed even longer, with some schools not expected to get their marks until September, throwing into confusion plans to allocate pupils into sets for the next school year.

David Laws, the Liberal Democrats' education spokesman, said the tests for 14-year-olds should be scrapped as they were expensive, unnecessary and unreliable. "The marking of this year's national tests has been a disgrace," he said. "Following this marking and administrative shambles, the Government needs not merely to replace its contractor [the US firm ETS Europe] but to scrap the key stage three [14-year-old] tests altogether."

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