Page last updated at 12:05 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 13:05 UK

29% of teens' Sats marks delayed

Pupil writing
There have been warnings of increased appeals over results

Hundreds of thousands of secondary school pupils in England are set to finish the school year without receiving their Sats results.

The latest figures for the delayed tests taken by 14-year-olds show that 29% of English results, due by 8 July, are still not ready for publication.

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove is calling for an interim report next week from inquiry head Lord Sutherland.

Head teachers have warned of record levels of appeals over marking.

This year's Sats test results for primary and secondary pupils have become embroiled in missed deadlines, lost papers and allegations over the quality of marking.

The reports of delays with the secondary results has prompted the Conservatives to call for an immediate report from the independent inquiry, claiming that "confidence in the government's handling of our exam system is collapsing".

Marking appeals

The latest information from the private contractor ETS is that on Friday 71% of pupils will receive English results, 93% will receive maths results and 91% of science results.

ETS Vice President Andy Latham apologises

ETS has not given figures for how many secondary schools will not have a full set of results for 14-year-olds.

As schools break up for summer, almost one in five primary schools still does not have a full set of marks. ETS says that 97.85% of results have been published for these primary school tests.

Assurances over the reliability of the marking have been given once again by ETS - with the promise that "the results this year will be of equal or greater quality than past years".

However there has been a warning from John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, that many more schools would be likely to challenge the results this year.

"The government and Ofsted use the Sats results to make judgements about whether schools will fail their inspections and heads can lose their jobs as a result," he said.

"The results need to be accurate and schools will be much angrier at lack of accuracy than delay.

"Results will be scrutinised this year as never before and the number of appeals is almost certain to rocket."

Complaints

The scale of the delays in primary schools has become clearer - and it is affecting more schools than was at first apparent, with about one in five still missing results, according to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).

On Monday, QCA chief executive Ken Boston assured MPs that marking for the primary school tests was "100% complete in all subjects" and that 94% of English, 97% of maths and 97% of science results were ready for publication the next day.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

But further unmarked scripts have been found and there have been complaints of pupils wrongly recorded as being absent.

There have been concerns that the lack of primary school results could disrupt secondary schools' plans for putting pupils into ability groups when they enter their new schools in September.

There have also been concerns that the failure to deliver test results for 14-year-olds will complicate plans for GCSE choices, which will be needed for courses to begin in September.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls said the situation was "unacceptable" and has instigated an inquiry, to be led by a former Ofsted chief, Lord Sutherland.

'Serial incompetence'

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said ministers should end the contract with ETS before next year's tests.

Head teacher Janis Burdin questions the quality of marking

"ETS have forfeited the right to run future Sats tests. Every day brings new evidence of their serial incompetence," he said.

"Ministers must act now to ensure next year's exams are run properly.

"That means guaranteeing that a proper team to supervise the process is in place as soon as possible."

Questions were raised on Thursday over the quality of work carried out by ETS, with teachers complaining of "erratic" marking.

Some schools also said papers had been returned unmarked and others said pupils who had sat the tests had been marked as absent.


Keep letting us know of your experiences, using the form below:

Our KS3 results came to us today (the last day of term!), but no papers. In the alphabetical list of marks a chunk of some 30+ students were all marked as absent for the English writing paper, despite school records showing all those students to have been present on the days of the tests, and thus gaining no grade overall. This amounts to over 10% of our cohort; a statistically significant proportion when measuring progress as well as achievement. What a travesty.
Tally, Bedfordshire

I am a KS2 English marker of 13 years experience. I have been a Team Leader since 2003. In previous years we would look at & re-mark a sample of at least 20 ( possibly 25)of our Marker's scripts. In this way, we would correct any errors, and write mentoring advice for the marker. We would also Clerical check their additions on the front page. It appears that in 2008, some markers have declined to transfer page totals to the front cover, as the online system will total them for them. I continued to transfer my totals ( as was advised at our Training day- 'as the schools would like to see them') and found the online system was an excellent, if tedious check for accuracy.

Quote: 'How do the markers ensure the integrity of the review system when, theoretically, it is possible for those with access to the papers to alter them before requesting a review?

Answer: A system was devised in English a few years ago, whereby we insert a small red-at the end of an answer, if the question is awarded 0/or does not gain full marks.'

I believe 5 is charged per script,for Review Marking, which is refunded to the school, if the child's review is upheld.

I have recently spent 12 days marking papers in Leeds; trying to catch up on the mountain of papers which were unmarked by the final date. Some of these papers were re-marks( papers returned by failed markers)The small red- was not used! IMO this is a direct result of Team Leaders no longer checking a sample of work from their team of markers. 4 Benchmarking exercises were taken on line instead. These were time consuming, especially if the marker was not on broadband, or their PC was old. A mountain of IT problems were a result!

I believe that one of the reasons for the lateness of marking completion was the way the scripts were delivered to markers. As has been said, in previous years the schools sent the marker their papers. Many teachers, who are also markers, could then mark these during the Half Term break. In 2008,the scripts were at least a week late being delivered, which partly accounts for the lateness of completion. However ETS asked for unmarked scripts to be returned, if markers could not meet the 26th June deadline. At least 2 of my markers did just that, but they could have easily completed in the next 2/3 days- which would have saved myself and at least 50 other markers spending a very, very long time in Leeds attempting to wade through the mountain of unmarked scripts. The Mark Capture System was a tedious exercise, which was supposed to alleviate marker error on Mark Sheets. This further extended the time available for marking.There are a combination of reasons for the delay in marking, but I hope that the work which I have undertaken has been as accurate as it has been in previous years.
Marker of 13 years, Huddersfield

We have received a poor service from ETS. All our Maths Paper B's had not been totalled on their front pages (this always takes place). Of the four papers I have checked two have been incorrectly totalled. I am planning to spend part of the Summer holiday checking all the papers. This is not an acceptable state of affairs. Richard Lane,

Head Teacher
Tamworth Staffordshire

Having received English SATs papers back today, we immediately noticed a discrepancy between teacher assessments and test marks. On closer inspection we noted that pupils were routinely scoring no marks for spelling on the writing paper, despite very few or no spelling errors. The marker appeared to have little understanding of what composition and effect was, or how to reward for use of adverbial and noun phrases. Similarly in the reading paper, pupils who fully answered the Shakespeare question, pedestrianly but without any inaccuracy, using appropriate quotations, were still marked in the bottom two bands. As a previous SATs marker, I re-marked a random sample to find, in the 5 papers I looked at, that children received on average 8 marks lower than I would have awarded as an "A" grade marker. How can we use these results as a reflection of children's ability when the markers themselves lack the ability to apply the mark scheme? I do not believe for one moment a practising English teacher marked these papers!
Lucy Eastwood, Huddersfield, England

It is twenty to eleven at night and I'm re-marking English KS3 SATS Writing papers. Why? Because when looking through a few papers at random when they arrived late this afternoon, I was instantly appalled at the poor standard of marking. Halfway through my pile of the most suspect papers, the vast majority, in my humble opinion, have been incorrectly marked, with just over a third of the papers marked so badly that they are wrong by an entire level.

I'm so angry about this whole debacle. Our students have worked very hard (as have our department) in difficult circumstances (BSF) and are eager to learn their level. How are we supposed to reveal to our hopeful students that their classwork and their exam paper may show level 5 / 6 / 7 skill but the marker feels they only deserve a 4 / 5 or even worse an N.

Worse still, we have papers missing so are unable to even get an accurate view on our percentage of Level Fives and above, even if the marking were accurate....
Claire, Manchester, UK

My school is still waiting for the Science papers to arrive. Just under half of the pupils (26) have not had their Science marks published. No real explanation has been given. One ETS official on the phone stated that updating could take as long as the 25th July. This outcome has had such a detrimental effect on school life, such as pupils' attitude to learning/ the celebration of outstanding teaching. For so many schools, and in particular year six, there was so much to celebrate this year and this has been missed. What is even more disappointing is how far senior officials remove themselves from such situations when things go wrong.
Kenneth Judd, Leicester City

I have marked key stage 2 maths since they were introduced and my experience this year was no worse than in any other. Yes I did receive the papers a few days later than normal and yes there were minor problems using the software but everything else went like clockwork and we were paid quickly and at regular intervals which hasn't happened in previous years.
Mrs J Roberts, uk

The mystery of why schools have received some papers unmarked is not a mystery. I am a team leader and led 9 new markers through the process. If pupils were registered as absent then markers could not input their marks on line even tho it was obvious they were not absent as markers had the papers. Ets failed to update the on line verification registers so markers knew they could not feed those marks in. Feeding the marks in was the trigger for markers to receive payment for what they had marked so they were not going to mark papers that they could not be paid for and they couldnt be paid as the children were still registered as absent--right to the end--and they couldnt feed the marks in. So they sent the papers back unmarked. An absolute fiasco and shambles and devastating to markers who met their deadlines, were failed by ets and devastating to all y6 teachers and children who slave all year re sats to fulfil League tables. A disgrace to all concerned and those in charge should resign.
Mrs S A lawrence, Chester uk

I have just read about the Moss Side Primary School's experiences. I have the same at my school in Darlington. One of our Y6 pupils has been marked as level 4b in writing. He can hardly write his name without help let alone write a story. Teacher assessment was 2c. He got 2b in Maths and 2c in Science which fits the pattern. I have looked, along with the teacher, at his test papers and we have come to the conclusion that he should have obtained a 2c for writing, the same as the teacher assessment. The Y6 teacher will be going through all the papers (we apear to be lucky in getting them back)to compile our own results and THESE will be sending along with the official data to his Secondary School to help them with setting for September. The whole process has become a not-so-funny joke and does no credit to our education system as it is at the moment.
Steven Storey, Northallerton - UK

We are one of the '20' schools to have over half of our children marked absent. Would anyone else like to declare themselves and we could start an on-line count? Fiasco from start to finish. Anyone fancy a boycott next year! We could all refuse to cooperate with ETS from Septmeber for next year's cohort of children. My children can't understand how all of their hard work has resulted in nothing but excuses. Ed Balls-up, you can visit and explain if you like!
Glyn Ellis, Haslingden, Rossendale

We have checked our English scripts very carefully. The marking is so bad that I am simply going to send them all back to ETS and demand that they are re-marked correctly. I wouldn't expect such poor assessments from my own staff so I have no intention of accepting it from a national agency, particularly when so much hangs on the outcome.It's high time that this entire charade was abandoned.
Mike Garland, Ipswich, England

I am a marker for the KS2 science sats this year, as a 4th year I have found the ETS system chaotic, although the first year online. I had schools with children present that were absent and when chased up were confirmed as absent. As a teacher I know the online system was 'down' and schools could not input their data. I marked an entire school not on my allocation but was so concerned about the children not recieving their results that I downloaded the individual pupil mark sheets and completed and printed them out and included them in the box. I worked hard and ensured my papers were completed by the deadline and find the media press does not include the markers that DID do their job!! Some schools must be happy with their results.
Clair, Manchester

I am an experienced marker of Key Stage 2 Maths tests for 11 year olds, having marked every year since the SATs were introduced in 1995. I am retired after a career as a primary school teacher, the last 21 of which as a Headteacher. In the past schools have sent children's tests directly to the marker, who returned them to the schools on completion of marking. This always worked efficiently in my experience.

This year ETS decided that all papers should be collected from schools and taken to a central warehouse in Yorkshire. The plan was to distribute them to markers from there. My experience was training on 17 May; receipt of papers June 12. I would normally receive them within 48 hours of being administered. Result; pressure to mark them in time. I did so methodically and I hope to a high standard. There were many problems with online recording of marks and pupils attendance, but I believe the biggest ,mistake was to alter the method of sending papers to markers.
Mr Robin Barnett,

With the league table obsession of the current government, I as a Head of English have to take responsibility for the achievement of students. How can I a) analyse the attainment and find areas for improvement for my team, b) face the students with results that by now will not be trusted especially after they have worked so hard? If every child does truly matter to this government they would not put our children through this debacle!
Jacques Mostert, Leyton

I teach in a small primary school which this year had a Yr 6 cohort of just 13, of whom 12 were eligible for SATs. We received the marked papers and the thresholds last week; on checking the maths papers, we found that 5 out of the 12 papers were incorrectly marked, with mistakes including incorrect totalling of marks, pages left unmarked, correct questions marked wrong and incorrect questions marked right, although the final total in this latter case was correct.

I am concerned that, with so many errors, we had the papers returned to us with the thresholds and now have to request a 'review' if we dispute the results. How do the markers ensure the integrity of the review system when, theoretically, it is possible for those with access to the papers to alter them before requesting a review?

In our school this year, each child carried over 7% and this could be critical when results are published in league tables.

Also, I notice that, for the first time, schools will incur a cost for reviews if they are not successful and this would add up to a significant amount for larger schools requesting reviews for whole cohorts of 60 plus children. If a charge is to be incurred, then schools and staff need to have faith that the marking system is rigorous and consistent.

This new system and the company running it has lost all credibility and I will have no faith in it should it still be in existence next year.
Ruth Carty, Titchfield, UK

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