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Demand for test overhaul

Headteachers are calling for a complete re-think of English tests for 14-year-olds after a series of marking blunders this summer.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has launched a review of the key stage 3 English tests. But it is only looking at the administrative difficulties which led some schools to receive their results as late as this month.

The Secondary Heads Association has sent the committee a damning submission urging it to extend its inquiry beyond the "irksome but relatively unimportant administrative failings". Instead, the association recommends broader changes to increase trust and respect for the test.

More than 200 heads contacted SHA within days of receiving their English results this summer to complain. Of these, 95 made references to administrative errors, such as lost exam scripts, and 83 to erratic marking. Statistical concerns, such as marks which did not reflect to pupils' past performance, were noted by 54 while 39 complained that overall marking levels appeared too harsh or too lenient.

Some of the secondary schools said they had lost so much faith in the exams that they intended to ignore the results in future.

SHA said that the English test had had "several bad years" since its introduction in 2001 and was now held in contempt by many teachers. "Quite a few school leaders describe their English staff as wearied or angered, and unwilling to apply themselves with the same vigour again," it said.

Letters 26

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