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Wrongly-marked scripts may be tip of iceberg

A surge in appeals has sparked renewed worries over the reliability of national key stage test scores. Julie Henry reports.

THE number of wrongly marked national curriculum test papers in English increased by nearly a third last year. The figures have been described as the tip of the iceberg by teachers, who say most schools do not bother to re-submit papers, even when they are suspicious of the results.

In the English test for 14-year-olds 402 schools asked for their whole cohort's papers to be re-marked. Schools are only allowed to do this at key stage 3.

Marks in nearly 15,000 papers were changed by a level. Of the 3,867 individual scripts returned, 70 per cent were changed. At key stage 2, the number of English papers returned by schools increased by nearly a fifth to 6,155. Just under 3,000 had a level change.

Last summer headteachers expressed concern about marking as soon as scripts were returned to schools. Thi was despite extra checks put in place by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority aimed at improving marking standards.

Trevor Drury, head at Hurworth primary in Darlington, said every English script he had sent back had been upgraded. He said: "I wish I had submitted the entire year group. When the upgrades were made, there was no explanation or apology."

Up to 75 per cent of the key stage 2 and 3 maths scripts resubmitted by schools were also found to have been wrongly marked, although the number of scripts returned was slightly down on the previous year.

About 600,000 pupils take the test at each key stage. In 2000, most scripts were marked by exam board AQA. This year it will mark all of them.

A QCA spokesman pointed out that the proportion of the 1.8 million scripts sent back to be remarked had been tiny. A survey of teachers after last year's tests found the vast majority were happy with them.

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