English test standards raised

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The Independent Online
EXAMINERS HAVE raised the pass mark for English national tests for 11-year-olds only a week after the Government ordered an inquiry into test standards.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, asked for the independent investigation after a furore over disclosures that this year's English pass mark had been lowered by four from 51 to 47.

Critics said examiners were under pressure to change the pass mark because Mr Blunkett had set ambitious targets for 11-year-olds. Now the mark has been raised by one. But academics and headteachers yesterday condemned the inquiry as "a waste of space" based on a failure to understand the system. They said such decisions were part of normal procedures for every public examination from primary school to university.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "[The inquiry] is completely unnecessary. The benchmarks for the tests have been checked by the National Foundation for Educational Research and we can be confident that they are right."

Figures released to The Independent show that pass marks for the tests have always fluctuated and that some of the biggest reductions were made under the last government.

A spokesman for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which administers the tests, said: "QCA believes its methods for calibrating tests and levels are robust and stand up to close scrutiny."

t A-level students are putting their studies in jeopardy by working long hours in part-time jobs to make ends meet, sixth-form principals warned yesterday. They said companies were pressurising pupils to miss classes to work shifts.