Report to shine spotlight on QCA

The exams quango will be on the carpet next week when the official verdict on ETS is out

Warwick Mansell

The government's testing agency and the firm it hired to oversee the marking of this year's Sats can expect a carpeting next week when a six-month independent inquiry into the events is published.

The job of Ken Boston, the chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, could be on the line. Although a well-placed source close to the authority said it was unlikely that individuals would be blamed by the inquiry.

The investigation by Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, a former chief inspector of schools, was ordered by the testing watchdog Ofqual after tens of thousands of pupils received their results late.

The Government asked Lord Sutherland to write a separate report for it on the events, which will conclude at the same time.

Both the National Assessment Agency and ETS Europe, the contractor which ran the marking, are expected to be strongly criticised for the administrative problems which dogged the summer marking.

As documented in The TES, the mishaps included markers being sent the wrong contracts, chaotic training events, misfiring software systems used to check marker quality and scripts going missing.

Tens of thousands of comments - the overwhelming majority of them negative - were registered on The TES online staffroom.

ETS's contract with the agency was terminated in August, after one year of a five-year contract to mark the Sats. This helped pave the way for Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, to scrap the key stage 3 tests in October.

Schools will be awaiting with particular interest Lord Sutherland's verdict on whether the difficulties affected marking accuracy this year. Kathleen Tattersall, Ofqual's chair, told MPs in September that the evidence the regulator had at that time suggested marking quality was at least as good this year as in the previous year.

However, some markers have said they are not convinced by her remarks. One marker said a computerised system designed to check markers' work, which replaced direct vetting by team leaders this year, had not tested accuracy on the hardest or easiest questions and had other glitches.

Another said: "If I had not been an experienced marker, the training would have been totally inadequate, and I'm sure I would have struggled." Over the summer, a senior marker told The TES that one of his colleagues had been given papers despite many errors in a vetting or "standardisation" exercise.

A key stage 3 science marker said that he had become so frustrated at having to enter marks on the computer, he had got his girlfriend's 10-year-old son to do it.

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Warwick Mansell

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