An idiot's guide to secure Sats

8th May 2009 at 01:00

Had to have the armed guard out last week. The school was closed on Wednesday, and the surrounding area cordoned off. The premises officer was put on full alert and teachers were informed that this was a high-security operation needing the utmost sensitivity.

So what was the cause of all this commotion? This year's Sats papers were being delivered.

OK, I'm joking. But it seems the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority constantly feel they need to spell everything out to me in excruciating detail - on the assumption, I guess, that I am a twit.

Yes, of course we don't want boxes of test papers just dumped by the postman in the ground-floor corridor, where all and sundry could take a pair of scissors to the boxes and voraciously run their eyes over the tests. We'd have the corridor full of people who'd died from boredom, for heaven's sake.

But I could hardly believe the long list of instructions that came with the tests, telling headteachers what methods should be used to make sure the packets are not opened before they're supposed to be.

First, somebody has to sign for the parcels. Not any old Tom, Dick or Harry, mind. It needs to be the headteacher or a senior member of staff. And not just any senior manager: the person has to be especially appointed for that task. "Miss Robinson, you are appointed as Sats receiver for 2009. I trust you have the ability to sign your name legibly?"

"Oh, thank you, headmaster, This is a role I've wanted for many years ...".

The boxes then have to be opened and the packets checked - making sure it's done by committee just in case somebody nicks one - after which it is permissible to inform the head that everything seems to be in order. Should something be missing, it must be reported to the tests distribution helpline without further ado. Bearing in mind last year's little difficulties, that's if you can get hold of anybody, of course.

The next stage is to store all the boxes of tests in a location that is kept locked. Definitely not, we are told, in a room where there is ICT equipment, because such rooms tend to be targeted by burglars ... "'Ere, 'Arry, we've fallen on our feet, lad. Leave that Topstar 5 million gigawatt multi-drive computer where it is. There's a box of Sats papers over 'ere. That'll fetch a fortune down the Frog and Nightgown ...".

Now the actual lock has to be considered. The padlock and chain you put on your bicycle won't do at all. It needs to be a high-quality lock with five levers. I immediately summoned my premises officer, who discovered that our secure location has a lock with only three and a half levers, so I dispatched him in haste to Homebase to buy an updated one before Year 6 had a chance to get their jemmies ready.

A list of the bleedin' obvious follows: don't let people wander into the storeroom; keep the key in a safe place; keep a check on who goes into the room; compile a register to sign keys in and out. I'm even supposed to conduct two daily spot checks, just to make sure everything is OK.

"Sandra, synchronise watches, step out into the corridor and keep an eye out for lurkers, please - it's 11.17am and time for my morning spot check."

Finally, I'm told that the QCA has fully briefed the national crime prevention officers' network about the security of test materials.

That's a relief, then.

I'm worn out after reading all this. And the tests haven't even started yet.

Mike Kent is headteacher of Comber Grove Primary in Camberwell, south London. Email:

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