Page last updated at 08:20 GMT, Wednesday, 16 July 2008 09:20 UK

Boxes of Sats 'remained unmarked'

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter

Test paper boxes
These six boxes of Sats papers were left uncollected in a Lancashire school

Boxes of unmarked English test scripts had been left uncollected in a school, despite the exam chief's claim to MPs that delayed marking was 100% complete.

These English tests taken by 11-year-olds from an unknown number of schools have now been collected.

But heads have continued to contact the BBC News website with claims of incomplete marking, missing papers and pupils wrongly claimed as absent.

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove says no-one appears to be in control.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families says that responsibility for monitoring problems with the Sats tests rests with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).

Schools still waiting for their pupils' marks are being advised to check for updated online results between now and 25 July.

Schools in several parts of the country have been reporting continuing problems with getting their pupils' Sats results, after a previous deadline had already been missed.


These included schools in Lancashire, Cheshire, Cambridgeshire, Coventry, Hampshire, Manchester, Dorset, London, Norfolk and Wiltshire.

Head teacher Allyson Woodhouse of Redbourn junior school in St Albans, whose school has no English test results and whose papers have not been located, has been angered at the assurances over the marking being complete.

"It is unacceptable to have government officials making claims that are completely untrue," she said.

"If we as head teachers do not follow the Sats guidance to the letter our jobs are at risk. Why should other agencies be allowed to treat schools, particularly the children, in such an unfair manner?"

In two schools at either end of England - in Fareham and Morecambe - head teachers have found that their science results wrongly claim that many of their pupils were absent for the tests. These pupils have no marks and their test papers have failed to be returned.

Schools had been promised that all the marking had been completed and as of Sunday night almost all marks had been entered into a computer system for publication online on Tuesday.


After the failure of the private contractor, ETS Europe, to complete the Sats marking process within the deadline of last Tuesday, a new date was set in an attempt to make sure 11-year-olds received their marks before the end of term.

The head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Ken Boston, told a select committee of MPs on Monday: "The current position is that in Key Stage 2 the marking is now 100% complete."

However a photograph sent to the BBC News website showed six boxes of unmarked English test papers in a Lancashire primary school, wrongly delivered last month.

Despite the head teacher's repeated efforts to contact ETS, the National Assessment Agency and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and receiving assurances that the test papers would be collected for marking, the papers were still there on Tuesday morning.

When the head checked the contents of one of the boxes, the registration numbers showed that some of the papers were from St Martin's primary school in Runcorn, Cheshire.


The head teacher of St Martin's, Phil Hallman, only found out that there was a problem when he checked the marks published online and found that his pupils' English test scores were missing.

The children have put their heart and soul into this, that's what hurts

Head teacher Phil Hallman

Now he has found out that his pupils' papers have never even been looked at by markers - despite assurances that all would be well with delivering results.

"The children have put their heart and soul into this. That's what hurts. I've had to speak to the children this morning to tell them nothing has come back," Mr Hallman told the BBC News website.

"It sums the whole thing up. It's the children who are suffering. We like to speak to each of them individually about their results.

"I'm not interested in league tables or percentages, it's about how much individual pupils have been able to achieve."

Without the information provided by the head teacher who still has the boxes, he says his school would have remained completely in the dark about what had happened to all its pupils' hard work.

In terms of the company which has been running the Sats marking, Mr Hallman says he would like "to treat them with the disdain with which they've treated us".

Responses from other schools getting in touch with the BBC News website show that this is not an isolated incident.

'Evade responsibility'

The head of St Augustine's school in Weymouth says that he also has not received the English results or scripts - and that ETS has informed the school to check again in another 24 hours.

Carolyn Clarke, head of Harrison School in Fareham has been told that many of her pupils are falsely marked absent from the science test and that the papers have not been returned.

The head of Lancaster Road school in Morecambe, Paul Gabriel, says that half of his pupils have also been wrongly marked as absent for science.

Barry Sheerman, who chairs the Commons committee for children, schools and families, who had been promised that 100% of marking was complete, says that if it appears that "the evidence might not be the whole story, then that is disturbing".

Following the publication of this BBC story, the ETS vice-president responsible for the testing, Andy Latham, phoned the Lancashire school holding the unmarked papers and arranged for the boxes to be collected today.

The shadow schools secretary Michael Gove said: "No-one in authority seems to have taken effective control of a debacle that has discredited the credibility of the country's exam system.

"Today teachers are directly contradicting the government's claim that 100% of exam papers have been marked.

"Ministers were warned weeks ago that a crisis was coming and they took no action. They cannot evade responsibility."

A spokesman for the National Assessment Agency said: "Every year a small number of scripts are mislaid during the marking process and some schools have no levels to report on results day.

"Everything possible is done to trace such mislaid scripts but, clearly, these scripts should have been located much earlier.

"The papers are now being collected and will be marked and we apologise to the schools concerned for the further delay in receiving their results."

Some of your comments:

To say that all Key Stage 2 papers have been marked and that all results will be available today (Tuesday) is demonstrably false. I know of at least 1 school in my locality which has not had its English results published today as they were returned to the school unmarked and have only recently been collected.
Rod Woodhouse, Hertford

KS 2 Sats are not 100% marked, we are still waiting for a large percentage of our science papers which at present read on the web site that our children were absent. In fact all papers were completed no children were absent and they were despatched to markers. We still await the papers return.
Carolyn Clarke, Fareham Hampshire

My school has no English results or papers for our Key Stage 2 children. No-one seems to know where they are. Unless I've missed something, it is the 15th. We were promised all results by the 15th, already a week late and all papers returned. Not a bean. Nothing. Just some very limp apologies and some incredible incompetent people. If I did my job this badly....
J Redmond, Manchester

No English results and no returned scripts. The NAA's promise given yesterday at The House of Commons Select Committee was an empty promise. The "helpline" is useless and no-one is answering. An email response advises me to "check the online results in 24 hours."
Stephen Mason, Weymouth

Tuesday - no SATs papers returned and e-mail from ETS states that one or more results are missing.
Janet Urban, Swindon Wiltshire

We have still to receive any of our papers and have no levels for the English papers on-line. What a shambles! It is impossible to know if our maths and science papers have been well marked or not but for both we have over 20% of our cohort within two marks of the L5 threshold. It would be good to check these but will we ever receive the papers back? Children work hard all year, try their very best for those few hours in May and are rewarded in this shoddy way. The only good thing that could come out of this would be for the whole system to be overhauled and teachers' professionalism be recognised by letting them mark their children's work as Y2 teachers do at the end of KS1. Teachers wouldn't let down their children in this way.
Jeremy Summerell, Cambridgeshire

To say that all KS2 marks are now available is completely untrue. We have today received our Maths and Science results but not our English results as these papers were returned to us unmarked! After numerous phone calls our papers were collected but no-one can tell me where they are now! To see children in tears because they do not have their results when they have spent 4 years working so hard is just unfair. Who is going to apologise to the children - they are the ones that matter? It is unacceptable to have government officials making claims that are completely untrue! If we as Headteachers do not follow the SATs guidance to the letter our jobs are at risk - why should other agencies be allowed to treat schools, particularly the children, in such an unfair manner? What was wrong with the old system?
Allyson Woodhouse, Redbourn, St Albans

Meeting my daughter's teacher yesterday for the end of term discussion the SATS results were unavailable. Both my daughter and the teacher were angry at this. I am furious.
Andrew Fanner, Cowplain

Our English and Maths KS3 papers have been returned marked. Half of the Science papers have been returned. Half have not. ETS has given me many answers to the question "where are the rest?": (1) They've been delivered to another school in Harpenden. They were picked up last Friday. (2) They were ordered to be picked up last Friday and they were probably picked up on Monday. (3) They are probably at our warehouse in Tewksbury but there is no record on the system. (4) They'll probably be sent out on Wednesday and should get to you by Friday at the latest. (5) We'll get a printout at 4.00 which will show us exactly where they are. (6) I've never heard of such a thing (the printout). The latest position is that the online results are now due out on Friday, but don't hold your breath. If the papers don't arrive before then everyone will have gone on holiday without any chance to either carefully check the marking and calculations or to tell the students their results.
Chris Dunne, London

Launcelot School wish to point out that half of our maths papers remain unmarked, with many pupils wrongly classified as absent. No scripts have been returned.When Mr Boston claims that marking is 100% complete, he is seriously misinformed. The chaos continues.
Graham Halcrow, Lewisham London

Here in Norfolk pupils from KS 2 and KS 3 are also waiting for the results of their English SATs, too. Both my daughters worked really hard for the exams. They deserve better than this poor service.
Daniel Burwitz, Norwich, Norfolk

I have yet to receive any papers and my English results are incomplete. I have phoned today to find out where my scripts were as we have no way of checking the accuracy of the marking and was told that they could not be tracked because the tracking had not been updated by ETS. Do we really have to put up with this shambles of a service again? It's unfair to both children and teachers.
Barbara Phillips, MIlton Keynes

I first had concerns about the marking process when I was contacted on 10th June about the possible absence of my children from the Science tests. We assured the caller from NAA that all the children had indeed been present and they agreed that was their information too! Apparently the marker had informed them that all the scripts were missing. We were told not to worry. Two weeks later we were called again from ETS/NAA to ask if all our papers had been collected. Again they were assured that all the papers had been collected on the 20th May. Today, on going onto the website to collect our results, I found that half of the Science results were showing my children as absent. When the papers arrived later only half of the science papers were returned. This is a shambles and a disgrace. The children have worked so hard and our desoperate to know how they have got on and we have had noone from ETS/NAA/DCSF/Government who has had the good manners to stand up and admit that mistakes have been made. They are all merely passing the buck! Even this morning they were claiming 100% of Key Stage 2 scripts had been marked. If it wasn't for the children waiting anxiously it would be a joke.
Paul Gabriel, Morecambe

I was an English marker this year and from start to finish it has been an atrocious experience. The training was appalling and the lack of support from ETS needed to be seen to be believed. I sent my scripts back over 5 weeks ago and was still being contacted up to 8 times a day by ETS until last week enquiring where they were! When I challenged them about their tracking systems they denied there was any problem and said they were just being "diligent"! I would be hard pushed to find a word further removed from the character of ETS this year in my experience. Having been a Head and a teacher and a parent, I think this is a scandal. The pupils deserve the best and have been badly let down by ETS.
Hayley Hayes, Bristol

Several of our local schools are reporting problems with incomplete results. How can it be claimned that all is complete?
Helen Castell, Brentwood

I am Head of a large inner city school in Birmingham. All our papers were collected, however,on their return not all of them had been marked. After a week of conflicting advice, the unmarked maths paper B was collected. Will we ever see it again? Will it be marked? All our English papers were marked, but on downloading the results from NAA, two sets of scores were missing. This will have a huge impact on our overall targets and percentages. A child who had been identified as having left the school on the attendance register has been entered as "X" -results pending. I have no confidence that these errors will be rectified.
Isabel Riley, Birmingham

My children break up from school for the summer on Thursday, and after speaking with the school this morning - it looks unlikely they will get their results before the summer holiday. The children have put so much hard work into this and had to start lessons at 8.00 am for a few mornings a week over a three month period - I think they deserve better than this shamble of marking and it would be nice if their teachers could have the opportunity to give them praise before the holidays - but this is looking very unlikely!
Sam, London

I trust ETS will not be paid following this fiasco. Equally Mr Balls and his team should be removed fromm office, as incompetence is perhaps the kindest comment that can be suggested.
J P Hudson, Lancaster

My primary school has not yet received its Key Stage Two SAT papers. Results of English and Maths are on the Web. However, only half the Science results have been published. I have spoken to ETS twice. Once at 7am and once at 11.20. They seem to be struggling with little or no understanding of what might happen.
Kenneth Judd, Leicester City

What a shambles. My son who a year 9 pupil is asking daily for his results. I have just telephoned his school who inform me they will be available "sometime" in July. In truth they have no idea. Someone must be held accountable for this.
Jo Plant, Gumley, Leicestershire.

We have only eight Year 6s who did the tests. It would have taken us a morning or less to mark them.....two months later and only our maths papers returned...our English not marked or returned and our science incompletely marked and not returned...pathetic. When I think of the pressure schools are under to be perfect these days and meet loads of targets under duress it really makes me angry.
Jan Allen, St Austell, Cornwall

I have marked for a number of years; it has always been badly organised but this year has been unbelievable. I too had papers delivered to me that weren't on my list to mark and after 40 minutes waiting for the helpline to respond they did not know what to do about it. I managed to complete mine on time but had to return one parcel unmarked as it wasn't on my list. I doubt if that will ever be marked, such is the poor communication and understanding of the whole process.
Susan Andrews, Ipswich, Suffolk

I have marked Key Stage 3 Science papers for 12 years and this year and this has been the worst I have ever experienced. All schools will need to check the quality of marking of all papers. The administration of ETS has been diabolical and their Helpdesk has been less than useless. I suspect there are still many papers unmarked. I received papers for a school but 50 students work were missing and I never received them - who has marked these papers as they were alocated to me? Presumably ETS will now lose the contract if SATs survive this and are put on again next year. I know a number of people who will definately not mark next year!
Marker, Surrey

We havent received our sat results yet for our 11 year old who goes to one of the schools in Lancashire. It's a disgrace. This government doesnt seem to have a handle on anything that involves any element of logistics or data transfer.
Craig Elwell, Accrington

For the second year in a row the marking of the writing in particular is appalling. Some scripts are mis-marked by upto 6 or 7 marks which would change levels achieved. Considering the raw scores are used to give CVA it is discouraging to all of us who have worked so hard including the children!!
Janet Miller, Mansfield Notts

This is verging on scandalous. A tremendous waste of money (any of which has been paid to the contractor must now be repaid to the taxpayer (assuming the contract was correctly drawn up by the brains who devised the whole SATS scheme (don't hold your breath!)). The system must be scrapped. Let teachers teach - not coach children to pass tests which arguably indicate nothing more than the teachers already know about a given child's abilities. Year 6 children have little or nothing to gain from the results - the decision on secondary school is generally already made. Year 9 can take internal end of year tests to decide on their subjects/class for year 10 onwards - just as we did years ago. It's straighforward, immediate, more constructive and significantly cheaper. Can we put the funding where it belongs - with the schools and the teachers, and stop this obsession with outsourcing/centralising/targets etc etc.
Paul Heffernan, London

Yet another failure by a large overseas based multi-national "expert" provider of IT & related services contracted by the government... Will they ever learn?
Tony Stevens, Belper

I have a year 6 child and a year 9 child who are both awaiting their SATS results. All the stress leading up to these tests is unbelievable and now they've got the stress of waiting for their results! My year 9 child doesn't even know if she can do what she has chosen for her options yet as this is based on the SATS results. They both break up this Friday so I doubt either will know what results they've got until it comes in the post which won't help my year 9 child to expect what will happen in September!
Gill Lloyd, Dudley

Try telling your daughter that she may not get her results and if they do arrive they may be incorrect. What message is that sending to our children - that hard work counts for nothing. The sooner SATS are got rid of the better - they are a total waste of time, money, stress and energy. Why can't we trust our teachers to judge our children - they know best.
Anne Lee, Weston - super- Mare

If teaching staff had shown even half this level of incompetence, Ofsted would have exploded with indignation and slung them out of the profession.
Robert Watmough, Southampton

Ken Boston must resign immediately.
Chris Wood, London

I am a Key Stage 2 Maths marker. As I was nearing completion of my Maths papers, three boxes containing unmarked and unopened Science Key Stage 3 papers from 4 different schools were delivered to me in error. In spite of immediate e-mails to both ETS and the NAA, and several e-mails during the following week, no action was taken to collect the scripts and they stayed in my home, unopened and unmarked for a whole two weeks during a crucial marking period(20th June to 4th July). It was only when I contacted the schools concerned on 4th July that any action was taken at all. If I had not contacted them, I am sure ETS would not have had the faintest idea where the scripts were. The Examinations Officer in all four schools got the ball rolling and the scripts were collected the same day. It may be worth pointing out that only half the scripts were there for one of the schools. I had two bags and there should have been five in total. The whole marking process has been a shambles from beginning to end!
adrienne parsons, Liverpool

We had to hand in our teacher assessments for our year 6's by Friday of last week. All our data was ready and then our computer server crashed. We phoned ETS to explain & they told us that we would be charged if our data was in late. At which point our school secretary had to peel me off the ceiling! Unbelievable - they want to charge us for submitting data late, yet their entire system has been a complete farce.
Lois Haydon, Bristol

This is simply ridiculous and unacceptable. After going through the stress and all things asscociated with sitting these tests both children and parents are now in limbo as regards the results. My son breaks up from school this Friday for his summer holiday and there is no certainty we will know his results before then. This latest report of boxes of unmarked English test scripts sitting uncollected simply adds to the farce surrounding this issue, not good enough !!
Mr Kevin Mills, Coventry

A friend of mine is in a hotel marking the backlog of KS3 papers. He is into his 3rd week and is currently being paid 300 per day in an effort to clear the remaining papers.
Steve Turner, Coventry

I think that this is an absolute disgrace. The children get so stressed over the results of these tests. It is unbelievable that in this modern age, papers cannot be marked properly. Our children deserve better than this.
Helen Matthews, Oldbury

My son's SATs have not yet been received by his school. When they do eventually arrive, how can we have any confidence in the markings? He's been stressing about not receiving them before school breaks up next Wednesday, so I've told him the 11+ was the important one and that SATs are mainly for the school rather than the child. He's only half convinced, knowing that the SATs results influence how he will be streamed in secondary school in September.

A friend's daughter did the KS3 SATs. Her subject choices for next year depend on her results, but the school is already on summer holiday and have had no SATs results, so she's stressing about whether she'll get the courses she wants.

Both children, aged 11 and 13, are very worried about a situation completely out of their control. And the government are still only considering thinking about firing the company!
M Charitou, Gillingham, Kent

A fellow colleague of mine in a different gloucstershire school had their ks3 sats papers returned on friday. They hadn't even been opened let alone marked. This is an absolute joke. ETS hang your head in shame.
Simon Cockeram, Gloucestershire

For years I managed the admin of SATs in a UK Primary school and questioned their validity as measures of our children's progress. It's time we gave the teachers credit for their professionalism and accepted their assessment of their pupil's ability, reducing the stress for both them and the children. It's a ridiculous numbers game that is detrimental to the learning of the pupils and this fiasco confirms that.
Carrie Reid, Paraparaumu, New Zealand

Until this year I had been a KS3 Mathematics marker for ten years. The systems in place with AQA and then EDEXCEL worked well in my opinion, we knew what we were doing, procedures were followed and every year there was an emphasise on "doing even better next year". What an absolute disgrace ETS have been. Their helpdesk was absurd,when I was eventually able to get through, e-mails were never replied to and the final straw came when they told me the night before that my training event was to be held in Nottingham, 150 miles away, when training was being held in Bristol a 10 minute drive from me. Needless to say I won't be marking again whilst these imbeciles still have the contract. Good luck to all, I suggest schools check their results carefully this year.(if you ever get them)!
Martin Everitt, Chepstow

We received our KS2 results online, only to find that scores had been entered incorrectly, with one child's maths paper B score being given to another and vice versa, resulting in a completely incorrect level.

Our local helpline was flooded with calls for help and local assessment consultants warned us that the quality of the marking would be lower this year because inexperienced markers were drafted in over the weekend with a hefty sum of money waved under their noses. This group included newly qualified teachers.

Having checked our writing papers, we have found the marking to be inaccurate, with Level 5 writers awarded L4 etc. We now have to check every single question on every paper, which will take us several days.

We have been told that if we return all of our papers for remarking, we will have to pay.

I suggest that everyone check their papers, the scores and the accuracy of the levels. If they are as poorly marked as ours, send them back.

It's time SATs were scrapped. Teacher assessment has never been more accurate or reliable. SATs tell us nothing we don't knwo. Afterall, we are professionals, dedicated to giving our children an accurate reflection of their capabilities so that we can help them to move on with their learning.
Simon, Leeds

Ha ha ha, bonk! The sound of me laughing my head off. I resigned my headship three summers ago (after 18+ years) because OFSTED wanted me to be more "rigorous" in my school management. Benign, child centred leadership was no longer acceptable. Where exactly is the rigor in this fiasco? Will any heads roll or go "bonk". I think not.
Kevin, Solihull

I cannot begin to say how badly the children in our school feel let down, they have all worked so hard as have the staff. It is an insult to children all over the country that their work can be so easily devalued.
Ann Grindrod, Runcorn

I am a mum of an 11 year old, a 14 year old and I am a Primary Head. My school has eventually had our results back. It took a colleague and I 3 hours to check all the papers to gather results. There was no way I was going to rely on the computer data I eventually received without double checking. The data was all correct and I was shocked. What sort of system is it that we cannot trust it without double checking everything? The marking of some of the papers is excellent. Some is 'interesting'.My son has not had his science results yet.There is no indication of when we are likely to see my daughter's KS3 results. SATs are how we are judged but we have no faith in the process.The reputation of a school lives or dies by it's SATs. This fiasco belittles the efforts of children, schools and communities as we try so hard to fit the expectations imposed upon us. Why is there a problem with recruitment and retention of Heads? I wonder.
Helen Coulthard, Lichfield, Staffs

Until yesterday I was part of a team of nigh on fifty 'temps' drafted in to input marks into ETS's databases in an emergency marking centre. After being treated with increasing disdain by the poorly communicative and lethargic management of ETS, a fair quantity of us were dismissed yesterday. Perhaps this is nearing its conclusion...? No - I think not. There are boxes and boxes (and then more boxes) yet to be processed, temps in charge of temps, management who are not (and cannot) really manage and an altogether despairing ethos...a glorious debacle.
S, Leeds

It is now Wednesday morning and we have had no scripts returned. We have only received our maths and science levels online. We have no idea where our English marks are, and we have had no scripts and as I have no faith in the marking this year,when are we able to check them? It makes me very angry when I hear Ken Boston say that marking is 100% complete. Who is going to resign over this fiasco?
Kathryn McFarlane, Seaton Devon

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