All correct on the boundaries

31st May 1996 at 01:00
Your article "SCAA's uncertainty bolsters test revolt" (TES, May 17) misrepresents how we are determining the boundaries for levels in this year's national curriculum tests. Far from being uncertain, the procedure is a secure way of ensuring that the standards set in the tests remain firm from year to year.

The development of the tests involves extensive pre-testing, from which we obtain data about the difficulty of the questions in relation both to the previous year and to similar questions at other key stages. We also carry out a structured exercise with groups of teachers to collect their expert views on the difficulty of the tests. These various sources of data give us a narrow range of marks within which each level boundary can be set in order to reflect the correct standards.

Where the pre-test data have given us a choice of marks within a narrow range, we are double-checking the level boundaries by looking at the marks awarded on a national sample of 10,000 pupils before confirming them. Our scope for making changes cannot go beyond the narrow range of marks which our pre-test data has already established. The process is exactly analogous to the final setting of grade boundaries in public examination such as GCSE and A-level.

We are inviting a number of independent experts, including representatives of the teacher associations, to observe the exercise.

Our willingness to be open about this is the best response to your conspiracy theory suggestion that there will be political interference in setting levels. But of course, the truth rarely deserves a front-page story.

NICHOLAS TATE Chief executive School Curriculum and Assessment Authority Notting Hill Gate, London W11

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today