15th September 1995 at 01:00
One of the more curious features of the great SATs scandal, as I am hoping it will sooner or later be known, is the way in which SCAA keeps on insisting that it has received very few complaints. Ergo, everything must be all right. The whole thing is just another media invention. They'll do anything, the British Press, to make sure that teachers get a fair hearing.

It is, methinks, an odd line of defence. Everybody else was reporting jammed switchboards, with the English teaching association claiming that is was receiving a call every eight minutes. Tales abound of schools simply parcelling up all the scripts and sending them back to the exam boards. There was even an official announcement about what to do if you wanted to ask for a remark. So why was SCAA so universally ignored?

Let's dispense, first of all, with the most obvious explanation. It is widely believed that SCAA was being less than candid about its mailbag. It is possible to find confirmation of this theory in Nick Tate's extraordinary outburst about the importance of being British. It is quite clear what being British means to those who aren't. Many foreigners would rank the British establishment as more than usually accomplished in the black art of disinformation. Not for nothing were we tagged "Perfidious Albion".

We all know, of course, how these things are managed. It is possible to reduce the number of complaints by counting only those that have been received through the proper channelsIwhatever they may be. You can, if you prefer, be very careful about what might be defined as a complaint. A request for a re-mark, for example, is hardly the same as a complaint. Indeed, it might well be seen as a vote of confidence. Why, after all, would you want a re-mark if you didn't think that the system could deliver?

But I don't believe that anything of this kind happened. Who could doubt that SCAA is a model of integrity in a body politic where expediency is the order of the day? So why was SCAA so universally ignored?

Now this is where SCAA defence begins to look dangerously ill-advised. The inevitable conclusion is that SCAA didn't hear about the fiasco because nobody could be bothered to tell them. Nobody believed that they would listen seriously, nobody believed that it would make any difference and so nobody picked up the phone.

Viewed in this light, the insistence that nobody has complained begins to seem like a public relations blunder of massive proportions. It puts SCAA in the same kind of category as the DVLC. They may have statutory powers, but whoever wrote to Swansea complaining about a new motorway through their back garden? Sadly, SCAA has become irrelevant. Don't misunderstand me. We will all go through the motions. Children will be tested to destruction. But the real business of education will carry on without SCAA now.

Want useful assessment information? Don't scrap the system you are currently employing. Trying to rethink your curriculum? Go to higher education or the LEA. You won't get much help from SCAA, they don't even know there is a problem.

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