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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 17:29 GMT
Results fiasco test chief quits
Jonathan Ford
Jonathan Ford: Review was critical of management
The head of England's testing agency has resigned following a critical report on this year's English tests.

The QCA qualifications watchdog said "a myriad of issues and errors" caused the chaos in the tests for teenagers.

Its review was critical of senior management and concluded "the whole test operations process is not robust in any sense".

Following publication of the report, the head of the National Assessment Agency (NAA), Jonathan Ford, resigned.

The QCA, of which the assessment agency is part, said: "Jonathan Ford has now resigned as managing director of the NAA to seek further opportunities. We wish him well."

It was confident the results - finally published, three months late - accurately reflected the achievements of 14 year olds.

Lack of programme management and leadership were the primary root causes
QCA report

They show a rise of two percentage points in the proportion achieving the expected level, compared to last year.

But the figure - 71% - is four points below the government's target for 2004.

The gender gap was 13 points - with 77% of girls making the grade and 64% of boys.

Ministers had also wanted at least 65% of pupils in every local education authority to have met the standard. But this target was missed in 38 out of 149 authorities.


The results of the tests, in reading, writing and Shakespeare, were due to have appeared with the maths and science results in August.

The NAA was announced exactly a year ago
It was intended in part to address an anomaly in the exams system
Usually exam boards set the exams and the QCA regulates the process
But the QCA both set and regulated the national curriculum tests
The NAA now sets them. In 2004, exam board AQA was its contractor for marking with a Pearson group subsidiary handling results and other data
Pearson is sole contractor for the 2005 tests
But it had become clear at the end of the summer term that things had gone wrong, with many schools complaining of missing or strange results.

The QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) apologised to schools and eventually set up a review.

This has concluded there was "no reason to believe that the test itself, the marking quality, or the final national results were in doubt".

But the report says: "The 2003-2004 English Key Stage 3 test process was plagued with a myriad of issues and errors.

I am confident that the English test results published today are an accurate reflection of the achievements of 14 year olds and I congratulate pupils and their teachers on their good performance
Ken Boston
Chief executive QCA
"While each issue and error in itself would have been manageable, the combination of so many caused the failure.

"The process from the printing and distribution of the test materials through to the publication of electronic results was badly flawed causing significant concern and disruption in schools."


The report added: "The whole process was characterised by poor leadership and inadequate project management."

The QCA's chief executive, Ken Boston, speaking before Dr Ford's resignation was announced, said it was clear his organisation had failed to carry out its responsibility to them.

"I reiterate the apologies given to schools by my colleagues in the National Assessment Agency," he said.

He gave his personal commitment the QCA would act on the review's recommendations to ensure there was a smooth tests process in 2005.


The School Standards Minister, David Miliband, said: "It's vital for schools and parents that a delay in delivering results does not occur in the future."

The head of the AQA exam board, Mike Cresswell, said: "AQA supports the committee's findings and shares their confidence in the quality of the marking."

A spokesperson for the Pearson group said it shared the commitment to improving the process for 2005 and had already been working on practical steps to achieve that.

The shadow education secretary, Tim Collins, said Dr Ford's resignation would change nothing.

"The appalling maladministration of these exams has left parents, teachers and children angry and confused.

"This situation is unlikely to change while our exam system is driven by government targets rather than our children's ambitions."

The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, said the "rigorous" QCA inquiry report confirmed his union's evidence of "maladministration and muddle".

He added: "This year's muddle has been upsetting not only for teachers, but for pupils and their parents as well."

He hoped the changes would ensure there was no repeat.

Details of the chaos that forced the resignation

Parents ambivalent about tests
15 Sep 04 |  Education
Test results delayed after mix-up
11 Aug 04 |  Education
Primary results improve slightly
24 Aug 04 |  Education
Primary school tests toned down
15 Sep 04 |  Education
Doubts dog English test results
23 Jul 04 |  Education
100m scheme to modernise exams
17 Nov 03 |  Education

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