Ministers deny “sexing up” evidence over Sats fiasco

April 29, 2009 at 1:46 pm 1 comment

By Lawrence Dunhill

Education secretary Ed Balls and schools minister Jim Knight yesterday denied “sexing up” evidence during an inquiry into last summer’s Sats debacle.

The pair came under fire in the Commons after Ken Boston, chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority – the exams watchdog – until he resigned last year, claimed the ministers’ account of the fiasco was “fiction”.

When it transpired last year that the marking was behind schedule and exam papers were missing, Boston said Balls and Knight had not regularly “pressed” him for answers as they have since claimed.

The Conservatives’ shadow children’s secretary, Michael Gove, asked the critical question at parliamentary questions: “Is Ken Boston lying…if not who is?”

Gove said: “There are serious questions about this government’s handling of assessment. How closely did the Secretary of State monitor these tests? How many times did he meet Ken Boston between May and the end of June?”

Knight responded: “The Secretary of State did press [the QCA] three times by June. They were pressed throughout the debacle and responsibility lay squarely with the marking contractor ETS and the QCA.”

Knight did admit that he had “wrongly recollected” Boston’s presence at a meeting he had not attended.

In July last year the results of Key Stage 3 tests were delayed for the first time, with some schools not receiving them until September. The marking of 1.2m exam papers failed and thousands of 11 and 14-year-olds’ papers were lost.

The government commissioned Lord Sutherland to investigate and his report, published in December, pointed to faults with the QCA and the company which it had contracted to do the marking, ETS.

Nevertheless Gove accused Knight of “evading responsibility” and brought Boston’s claim that he had not been called to meetings by the ministers or contacted by email or phone to the attention of the House.

Balls insisted he had asked the QCA for reassurance that the marking was on schedule on May 19, June 2 and again on June 6, with Boston giving assurances on each occasion.

He said: “Ministers regularly pressed Ken Boston and the QCA. It was only at the end of June that the problems emerged.”

Last week Boston told MPs on the children, schools and families select committee that he should have resigned three years ago when ministers refused his advice to introduce an online marking system, which he said would have prevented the Sats disaster.

But Balls claimed online marking was a recommendation made by Lord Sutherland: “At no point has Ken Boston ever pressed on me the case for online marking. It is Lord Sutherland who is now pressing that case on the basis of his thorough, effective and independent review.”

The Sats fiasco led Balls to scrap key stage three tests for 14-year-olds.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. jonathan  |  April 29, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Something funny is obviously going on – who’s lying?

    Reply

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