School falls to bottom as exam times were out of joint

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The Independent Online
A SOUTH London school occupies bottom place in the primary league tables - and Shakespeare is to blame.

Chesterton School in Wandsworth scores zero because its results were annulled because the test dates were changed. Both a visit by the English Shakespeare Company to the school, and a later visit to a West End performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, came on days when pupils should have been sitting the national tests.

Governors and teachers say exam officials ignored requests to change the dates, and they are furious that the results have been declared invalid.

Yesterday, Tony Tuck, the chair of governors, said: "I totally approve of testing and common standards, but education is about much more. We are in the 11th-most-deprived ward in the country and this was a once- in-a-lifetime chance for the children. Our two parent governors say their children have talked about nothing else since.

"Here we are doing everything we can to enrich the children's experience of school and you would have thought people would be congratulating us. Instead, we are being represented as the worst school in the country."

In reality, the school has an aggregate score of 182, better than many other schools in similar areas and an improvement on last year.

The trouble began when teachers invited the actors to visit the school in May as part of a scheme that ends with a West End Shakespeare performance. When the company rang to change the dates, a teacher agreed to do so without realising that they clashed with the tests.

When the clash was discovered, the school had already paid a deposit of pounds 200. Three letters were sent to exam officials at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which monitors the tests, asking for permission to change the dates.

A spokesman for the authority said that schools were allowed to change test dates only if they had been given permission. "As far as we are concerned, we did not receive any letters. The school's results were annulled because of an unauthorised variation in the test timetable. Assessment and reporting arrangements make it quite clear that all requests for variations must take place before a cut-off point.

"If schools vary the timetable without authority, this represents a breach of security in the tests, and this is something we take very seriously."