Marking of tests cannot be trusted

31st October 2003 at 00:00
We can say with confidence that the key stage 3 English levels awarded to a large number of pupils at this school are simply incorrect. Yet the Government intends to use these results to publish league tables showing the value added by the school to one decimal place!

The Education Secretary should have the courage to accept that, like his predecessor, he has been badly let down by those who run the examination system. He should abandon these league tables until a robust system of testing can be developed.

Like many schools we realised as soon as the results arrived in school in July that they were simply wrong. In our case the levels awarded were far below those that the pupils' answers deserved.

We sent all the papers back for a group review. This should either have concluded that the original marking was correct in which case no changes would be made, or made changes required to bring all the results into line.

Neither of these happened. During the review, a sample of scripts were checked, resulting in re-marks scoring from up to eight marks higher to seven lower. The levels of these pupils were changed - yet the reviewer concluded that the original marking had been "sound", and that no further checks were necessary!

We then employed (at considerable expense) an independent assessor to examine the papers of those pupils who come within five marks of the level 5 boundary. This resulted in our applying for 28 pupils' papers to be reviewed.

The marks of every single pupil were raised, by as many as 10 marks, and 20 of the 28 pupils had their level raised. (Only 30 marks were needed to achieve level 5). We can now say with confidence that the levels awarded to the other 200 pupils are wrong, yet there is no further review process.

There is no doubt that ours is not an isolated case. A straw poll of eight headteachers revealed that five had returned all their key stage 3 English test papers for re-marking.

Some schools will have marks that were too high, so will not have appealed.

Others will not have found the time or money to apply for individual re-marks.

The only honest way for the Government to proceed is to abandon any attempt to use this hopelessly flawed data for any purpose.

Tony Toubkin Deputy headteacher Heysham high school Limes Avenue Morecambe Lancashire

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