I watched the debate on the Sutherland inquiry with increasing incredulity and anger. The attendance on the House of Commons benches was truly pathetic and showed how much importance is attached to what was the educational debacle of this year. It was obvious that most of the members who were there had not been able to read the report but perhaps that was the Government's intention. Ed Ball's performance was defensive and at times almost inarticulate but the overall message was as follows: "It was the fault of ETS, QCA, NAA, the DCSF cat and Ken Boston, but no blame can be attached to me or my department."
The scapegoating of Ken Boston (right) is particularly shameful. His offer of resignation, in the best tradition of a leader taking responsibility, is in sharp contrast to his political bosses throwing him to the wolves and using weasel words to justify such an act. The DCSF may well not have had a direct responsibility for the fiasco but they did not do their homework which led to ETS being given the contract. Ed Balls' comment that he did not know about the problems until June is laughable. From the worries over the recruitment and training of markers to the increasing litany of concerns from schools as the testing process got under way it would be obvious to any education minister who actually listened to teachers that trouble was brewing.
Lord Sutherland is to be commended on the thoroughness of the report, given his terms of reference were limited to the process of the testing regime and not the philosophy. Forgive me, as a former headteacher of 22 years' experience, if I offer the opinion that, adapting the phrase that is echoed after every government report into a problem, lessons will not be learned and that someone else will always be to blame.
Tony Roberts, Lancashire NAHT, Preston.