Holidays on hold over Sats

25th July 2008 at 01:00

Teachers' summer holiday plans have been thrown into disarray as staff prepare to go through badly marked test papers as a result of this year's Sats fiasco.

Staff have told The TES that as term comes to an end, exam papers are still to be released, so processing them will eat into their break.

Schools yet to have papers returned were being asked this week whether they wanted scripts delivered in the middle of the holidays on August 20 or 21, more than six weeks later, when their main focus would normally be on GCSE results.

As school holidays began this week, about 200,000 pupils' results were still not available for English, maths or science, with nearly a quarter of the marking for key stage 3 English yet to be completed and about 11,000 results still not available for KS2 subjects.

One head of English in Norfolk, whose school broke up last Friday, told The TES: "The papers have been fairly randomly marked and I am going to have to spend several days going through them."

She said she would have to check particularly carefully the papers of all pupils who appeared to have narrowly missed a national curriculum level because this year, for the first time, this "borderline" check was not being done by markers.

Another teacher wrote on the TES online staffroom: "I have just spent seven hours of the first day of my holidays going through my borderline scripts, identifying discrepancies and filling in review forms."

Woodnook Primary in Accrington, Lancashire, had not received its KS2 English papers after being told by ETS Europe, the company responsible for overseeing marking this year, that unmarked papers were still awaiting collection from the home of one marker who has now gone on holiday.

A school in Hertfordshire said its two experienced Year 6 teachers had spent three days at the end of term going through KS2 papers.

Broad Oak Primary School in Preston was told by ETS that the script delivery company UPS had no record of its existence. Despite this, it has had maths and science papers returned, but no scripts for English.

These developments come with the Government now under pressure over both the Sats results and the wider purpose of testing.

The Conservatives called on Ed Balls, Children, Schools and Families Secretary, to take responsibility for the crisis and for the contract with ETS Europe to be terminated.

Three separate inquiries have now been launched: one by Ofqual, another by the Commons' select committee for children, schools and families, and a third by the Conservatives.

Another school, which said the marking of its KS3 English papers was "appalling", said pupils had been in tears after receiving their results.

The school's head of English said: "The worst thing about this whole debacle is the effect upon the children and their faith in education."

ETS is due to start processing appeals against pupils' marks next week. Schools that have not had papers returned have been given until September 10 to appeal.

- As The TES went to press, Estelle Morris, the former education secretary, said the Government should hold a review of testing that went deeper than the latest problems. It should "open up the debate and ask whether how we test is right".

What accountability?

Headteacher Rosemary Litawski (pictured) was furious because she had still not received any scripts back for English, maths or science as the end of term approached. As the Ferrers Specialist Arts College in Rushden, Northamptonshire, broke up on Wednesday, its English results were not even available online.

Only a third of its maths scores, and two-thirds of its science results could be viewed on screen.

The final straw came on Tuesday, with two emails - one from the National Assessment Agency (NAA) and one from Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary. The NAA asked if she wanted the papers delivered on August 20, 21 or at the start of term, while Mr Balls' letter said that testing was vital for accountability.

Dr Litawski said: "I am livid. Where is the accountability to parents now, when the results are not out? This is a complete balls-up."

The school was told on Tuesday that its scripts were "in a warehouse" and that their delivery was a priority. Reports to parents would have to wait until the autumn when the results were out, said Dr Litawski.

About 12 of Northamptonshire's 43 secondaries had not had their English results this week, while seven were waiting for maths results and four were awaiting results in science.

Warwick Mansell

Photograph: Roy Kilcullen.

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