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Capita wins £109m primary testing contract

Union leader says the government has 'rewarded serial failure' by giving the contract to controversial firm

capita, test, primary, sats, key stage 1, key stage 2

Union leader says the government has 'rewarded serial failure' by giving the contract to controversial firm

Capita has been awarded a six-year, £109 million contract to manage primary school tests in England.

Union leaders said the decision to give the contract to the firm amounted to a reward for “serial failure”.

The firm announced that it had won the contract from the DfE’s Standards and Testing Agency (STA) today.

It said that it would manage the end-to-end process for primary school tests, including printing, distributing and collating more than 9 million test papers every year for key stage 1 and key stage 2 tests, as well as the phonics screening check, and administering the marking of 4 million key stage 2 test papers each year.

It said it would provide 16,000 schools and 4,000 test markers with “a new secure access portal, providing a more efficient service which will allow them to review the status of the test process, obtain results and update and download records in one place”.

In May, Capita faced severe criticism from the National Audit Office over its primary care support services for NHS England.

The government’s spending watchdog said the service to primary care practitioners “has fallen a long way below an acceptable standard”, which it warned “had the potential to seriously harm patients, although no actual harm to patients has been identified”.

Following today’s announcement, Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The primary testing system is bad for children but good for contractors.

“Capita is set to make a vast profit at the expense of young primary children’s mental health and well-being.

“Furthermore, Capita’s record of providing services to government is riddled with errors and complaints.

“It is astonishing that the government has rewarded serial failure by awarding Capita a contract on this scale.”

Jon Lewis, chief executive officer of Capita said it was “an established and experienced partner to the education sector and this contract further reinforces our strategy”.

He added: “We look forward to using our technology and service management capabilities to identify and deliver efficiencies and improvements ensuring both value for money and a positive experience for schools across England.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “All government-approved suppliers must meet clear quality standards, and are regularly assessed to make sure they are delivering on their contract. Where Capita does not meet the expected  standard in the contract, they are subject to financial penalties. 

"Moving to a single supplier with Capita will simplify the current, complex model of multiple delivery partners and provide a better service for schools."

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