Marks of pure incompetence

8th August 2003 at 01:00
I read with interest, the comments made by L Boztas (TES, July 25) concerning the anomalies in key stage 2 English results, particularly in the writing test.

As head of a school in Gloucestershire, I was shocked by our initial writing results which bore no resemblance to our reading results or indeed our teacher assessments.

When the initial shock subsided, we engaged an experienced English marker to re-examine the scripts to prepare an appeal. The results of this unofficial remarking were deeply disturbing. We have since submitted all English scripts for 70 pupils for a re-mark and we await the outcome. Some of the differences in opinion, in terms of marking, were astonishing (up to 20 marks on one paper alone).

My staff and I have suffered great stress during this period. We felt we were failures. The school noticed a sudden increase in stress-related absence. My blood pressure went sky high.

If the outcome of results is open to opinion, then the Sats system is unreliable. This re-ignites the debate about whether they are valid in the first place.

Just what happens to incompetent markers? How can the system be adjusted to remove subjectivity? Who is responsible for all of this? Who apologises to my staff for their upset? One Year 6 teacher retired at the end of term after lengthy, dedicated service. Is she to finish still thinking that she cannot teach children how to write?

A print-out of re-marked results is not enough. Should we be proven right, I want an apology. Hopefully our re-mark will be done by someone with more ability than the first.

Ian Barkley

Headteacher

Forest View primary school

Gloucestershire

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