Sats test leak investigation will 'identify the culprit', Nick Gibb tells MPs

10th May 2016 at 14:37
'To lose one test, minister, may be regarded as a mistake. But to lose both looks like carelessness,' shadow education minister jokes, as tests contractor Pearson apologises

Schools minister Nick Gibb has told the House of Commons that an investigation will “identify the culprit” of the Sats test leak last night.

Mr Gibb said he had asked for “all records [to be] examined and all information [to be] interrogated” to track down the person who had leaked the paper to the press after it was “mistakenly” uploaded to a secure website.

Answers to the key stage 2 spelling, punctuation and grammar test appeared on the website of Pearson, the company that runs the tests for the Department for Education, yesterday afternoon.

Mr Gibb said that the test was mistakenly uploaded at around 5pm on Monday, but that it was a secure site inaccessible to anybody without approval from Pearson.

"Pearson were informed that the test was on their site by markers during the course of the evening and they removed the material from the site at 9.01pm," the minister said.

"The department was separately alerted to the situation at around 9.30pm by the media and immediately made contact with Pearson to establish the facts.

"During the short period that the materials were live, Pearson's records show that 93 markers, all with the appropriate clearance, accessed the material."

Mr Gibb stressed that the only people with access to the site are contracted markers, all with a contractual obligation not to share sensitive information, and that it was "standard and appropriate practice" for "key individuals" to be given prior access to assessment material.

'Breach of trust'

"Some 23 senior markers had access to the material from 1 April and 153 team leaders had access to the material from 11 April," he said. "Clearly in this system it is essential that people in positions of trust can be relied upon to act appropriately.

"Unfortunately in this case it appears that one person did not and they leaked the key stage 2 English grammar, punctuation and spelling test to a journalist."

Mr Gibb said he was “grateful” to the journalist who chose not to publish the test paper when they received it.

The minister said Pearson had been asked to investigate two key issues. He said: "First, how did the material come to be uploaded on to the secure site in error? This was clearly a mistake which should not have been possible.

"Second, I have asked that all records are examined and all information interrogated so that the culprit who leaked this sensitive information can be identified."

Labour shadow education minister Nic Dakin claimed the government had "just taken their eye off the ball".

Mr Dakin adapted one of playwright Oscar Wilde's famous lines to joke: "To lose one test, minister, may be regarded as a mistake. But to lose both looks like carelessness.”

The incident followed a similar leak that occurred with a key stage 1 spelling, punctuation and grammar test last month.

A spokesperson from Pearson said it “regretted” that the paper was uploaded on to its secure website. “We apologise to schools, teachers, parents and pupils for this error at this sensitive time. We are conducting an investigation to make sure it cannot happen again. As part of this investigation we will seek to find out which individual passed this information into the public domain, in breach of their commitments to us and their fellow markers."

A Department for Education source said before Mr Gibb delivered his statement to MPs that a "rogue marker" had tried to leak the test.

The source also suggested there was now an "active campaign" from people opposed to the government's education reforms to "undermine these tests".

Last month the Spag test due to be taken by thousands of seven-year-olds was scrapped after it was accidentally released online.

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