Fury as heads claim 2009 Sats probe dodges appeals controversy

23rd July 2010 at 01:00
They say Ofqual has failed to address 'massive injustice' which saw just 0.39 per cent of grades changed on returned papers

The official inquiry into the 2009 Sats has failed to answer widespread concerns about the record low number of successful appeals.

Primary heads and teachers had hoped the Ofqual investigation into the quality of marking would also explain why just 0.39 per cent of tests had their grades changed even though over 50,000 were returned - 3,000 more than in 2008, when serious mismanagement shook confidence in the system.

In 2009, appeals were submitted for 3 per cent of all the marked scripts. Heads and their leaders complained that the number that won a new grade was much lower than they had expected.

Matt Rampton, head of Pickhurst Junior in Bromley, Kent, sent 124 writing papers back for remarking last year but no marks were changed.

At the time, he said: "(The appeal process) seems like a token gesture ... That's worse than not having a review because it gives you a sense of hope that there will be justice if you play it by the book.

But Ofqual appears to have chosen not to inquire about these concerns. "The low number of changes to results after schools had requested reviews could be interpreted as evidence of the reliability of the tests," it says.

Heads are furious at this apparent oversight. Adrian Hayes, head of Our Lady Immaculate RC Primary in Chelmsford, had 72 per cent level 5 English in 2008 and around 69 per cent this year. But in 2009 the proportion dropped to 22 per cent - even after appeals.

"There has still been a massive injustice. The 2009 cohort was the stronger one. Ofqual should look into that appeal process," he said. "Schools don't appeal unless it's justified. We expect justice to be done."

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the NAHT, has reacted angrily to the fact that the report doesn't address the problem.

"We are highly suspicious about the appeals not being granted. It's an awful lot of hassle sending scripts back and heads don't do it unless they are pretty certain there is a problem," he said. "Ofqual should look into the appeals.

"The debacle over marking shows the system has to stop. It is a ludicrous way to assess children."

Heads asking for a review in 2009 had to point out where they thought the mark scheme had not been applied properly. The system was changed this year, so that level of scrutiny is no longer needed.

Isabel Nisbet, Ofqual chief executive, said: "The report focuses on the marker training and the process for setting level boundaries for English, mathematics and science. It also includes a review of the reading and writing materials used in the English tests."


The official report into the 2009 Sats says "incomplete, confusing and inconsistent" messages were given to markers.

The report found that:

- lessons from the pre-test stage were not acted upon

- the reading mark scheme was so complex that it left no time for some markers to be trained at all on some questions

- the training on how to mark writing papers was subsequently rushed.

- Ofqual said there were also discrepancies between the published mark scheme given to teachers and heads and what markers actually used.

This was because "additional guidance" was issued to markers after the heads had been issued with the documentation.

One marker told The TES that additional guidance was issued piecemeal, saying: "You can understand why teachers would be screaming - because they didn't have that additional information."

It recommended that in future all adjustments or clarifications are included in the final version of the mark scheme.

The watchdog pointed out that the code of practice precludes changes to the mark scheme being made during training, but permits additional guidance to be issued.

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