Ms Stark told the Scottish Educational Research Association in Dundee that new holders of contracts for the regular surveys in English and mathematics as well as science would not have the same commitment as their predecessors. They would be "one or two days a week employees" responsible to a central co-ordinator appointed within the Scottish Office.
In a presentation called "Four surveys and an epitaph", she adapted the Auden poem that featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral: "It was our north, our south, our east and westOur working week and our Sunday restOur noon, our midnight, our talk, our songWe thought the AAP would last for ever; we were wrong."
Tom Bryce, a colleague on the science team, said: "Will there be enough time now to do things properly? That is the telling point."
But Martyn Roebuck, head of the research and intelligence unit in the Inspectorate, said that the AAP would now be even stronger. Under central co-ordination, the response rate to involvement in surveys had gone up from 70 per cent of schools to 90 per cent.
In response to claims that higher education had been removed from the AAP process, Mr Roebuck said that the contract for English had been awarded to the Edinburgh University team previously in charge of surveys. No bid for the maths contract had come from higher education, but he hoped that the Strathclyde team would put in for the next science contract.