Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 12:21 UK

Heads angry at Sats publication

piles of test scripts
The test authority says "a significant number" of results are not ready

The government's decision to publish England's provisional primary school Sats results next week "beggars belief", head teachers have said.

They warn that widespread concerns still remain about late and missing results, and the quality of marking.

The National Association of Head Teachers says ministers are issuing the results prematurely.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls said statisticians advised him publication should go ahead despite the problems.

The quality of the marking process is highly suspect
Kathryn James

According to the latest figures released by the contractor responsible for marking the tests, Educational Testing Service (ETS), 99% of Key Stage 2 results "are now available to schools".

But it is not clear how many primary schools are still missing a complete set of marks. Head teachers have also warned of pupils wrongly marked absent for the tests.

In a letter to the chairman of the Commons schools select committee, Mr Balls said publication of the results was a matter for his department's head of statistics, who had advised publication should go ahead as planned on 5 August.

NAHT assistant senior secretary Kathryn James said: "The quality of the marking process is highly suspect, and unfairly casts doubts on the professionalism and the integrity of school leaders, their staff, and the laudable efforts of the pupils in their care."

She added that her union had received more than 300 e-mails highlighting examples of maladministration and inaccuracies in the test results and that these may only be the "tip of the iceberg" in terms of concerns about the results.

She said one school told her it had received 7 of the 87 papers it was supposed to receive while another had a complete set of papers for another school.

Another head had warned that more than 100 of his maths pupils were wrongly down as absent for the test.

She warned that the NAHT would not see its members subjected to the rigours of an Ofsted inspection that may be predicated upon these "dubious results".

"Until schools are satisfied that all returned scripts have been submitted for full and thorough review, with marks and levels accordingly adjusted, NAHT members will continue to have absolutely no confidence or trust in the reliability of this year's KS2 and KS3 test data," Ms James added.

Results outstanding

But Mr Balls insisted that Ofqual had advised that, as of 28 July, there were no widespread concerns about the quality of marks that would justify withholding the results at a national level.

An Ofqual spokesman said it recognised that the confidence of teachers, parents, pupils and the wider public had been damaged by the test problems.

"Ofqual will be closely monitoring the review process to ensure that it is carried through accurately and objectively, so that pupils get the marks their work deserves," he said.

Earlier this week the QCA said its National Assessment Agency arm was taking over this appeals process from ETS.

It said "a significant number" of results had still not yet been delivered to schools and that it was working with ETS to ensure the outstanding work was completed quickly.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, mirrored the NAHT concerns, saying: "There are some real question marks of the quality of marking.

"My union would have preferred the holding back of the results until at least the National Assessment Agency did the job of looking at all the marks so there could be some real confidence in the system."

Shadow children's secretary Michael Gove said teachers, heads and parents had lost faith in ministers' handling of this year's tests.

"Schools across the country have reported wildly erratic and inconsistent marking and there will be a significant number of appeals."

Provisional Key Stage 3 results are scheduled to be published a week later. The head statistician is due to seek advice and publish a further statement on the matter on 4 August.

The government said at Key Stage 3, 91% of results were available overall, with 84% available in English, 95% available in maths and 95% available in science

Some of your comments:

Our returned writing KS2 sats results were 50% less than the levels achieved in November 2007 mock sats- 39% level 4+; despite the reading being in line with our expectation and 86% level 4+ & high percentage of level 5's. All outcomes have increased since target setting in mock sats apart from writing- with Science showing 96% level 4+ with a high level of level 5's also. We are paying to have the returned writing papers independently externally marked by a KS2 experienced marker who marked our mock sats in addition to having returned them for re-marking. It took hours to photocopy the papers with a large cohort of students as we had to return the original papers.This will at least ensure that we have some kind of accuracy regarding writing results as common sense prevails and these returned writing results cannot be correct. It is appalling the extra work that has been involved in this writing aspect alone. We have not as yet had the maths papers returned and so we are unable to verify/ check these in any way as yet. It is a total nonsense that 145 million has been spent and the results are totally unreliable.As an trained ofsted inspector and a SIP -this has huge implications for the reliability of Raise on Line data being used for 2008- and as a serving head- these inaccurate writing results are potentially very damaging indeed. I am appalled at the blind disregard of the government to not declare them unreliable from the outset after this total fiasco. Have the government any idea at all of the pressure on schools with these results let alone inaccurate ones!? Obviously not.
Sue Smith, Penzance Cornwall England

99% of KS2 results are now available to schools? I don't think so, based on a quick poll of local colleagues. And hopefully the BBC will again show that many schools still do not have their KS2 results, through comments collected here. The 99% claim from ETS appears to be either another lie, or they still do not know what they are talking about. Neither is what we are paying then 156 million for. But still Mr Balls does not have the, erm, guts, to intervene and sack them.
Robert, Truro, Cornwall

The school I work for has not received its reading papers yet and received the writing papers after they had been sent to a school on the other side of the country. The headmistress will now have to come into school in the holidays in order to "hopefully" receive the writing results. My daughter also sat the tests this year and although gained excellent results I feel I have no faith at all in this way of testing. She also received a glowing school report which is much more significant to me as it relates to my daughters work over the whole year and not just 1 week!
Jane, Warrington ,Ches

Delighted to hear this. As my school has not yet received their literacy results, it will be interesting to see what is published !!! Roll on the league tables - that will be an even bigger farce. Mr. Balls, take my advice, go to Teacher Assessments with spot checks - it will save you shed loads of money and you will be the best thing since sliced bread with the Teaching profession.
Jo, Woking

I was a SATs KS2 English Marker, I quit part way through the marking as I was spending a ridiculous amount of time on the marking and inputting data. I told ETS that I was quitting and subsequently packed all marked and unmarked scripts for collection. About 3 weeks later they were collected, I have since had 2 more couriers try to collect them and a phone call from the NAA asking whether they had been returned. I would like to apoligise to any school I had who have either not had their marked papers returned or worse have still not had their papers marked. I quit for solid reasons but did not expect ETS to make the complete mess up they did. Perhaps if they had given us more time to mark, and paid us a fee commensurate with our professional standing, there may have been less of a debacle. It has to be asked, how many graduates would work for something that resembles or is lower than minimum wage for incredibly long hours, after working all day too. This is not why I went into teaching. The SATs should be consigned to history and never ever used again.
Paul Cambell, Doncaster

The publication of these deeply flawed statistics surely means we can never again trust anything this Government publishes (if we even did in the first place).
Chris, Chorley

I agree that relying on teacher assessments with a checking/moderation process would be a far more sensible use of time and money. The money that is spent on creating and administering these tests could be put to much better use within schools themselves for the direct benefit of pupils.
Nicola, Cornwall

As a parent subject to this nonsense of pupil and teacher self assessment in Northern Ireland I have no confidence at all in any results or reassurance issued by schools which is not independently and objectively assessed. Teachers wish to be free of SATS. Parents and the Government don't. Remember who pays the teachers. Please stop whining and get on with the vital teaching of numeracy and literacy that our children deserve. The criticism of ETS is a distraction to further the argument for avoiding accountability. Teachers are becoming questionable in their claim of professionalism.
Stephen E, Antrim, Northern Ireland

Having consistently attained level 5s in all KS2 practice/teacher assessed papers during year 6, my 10 year old was marked at level 4 in the actual SATS. Granted, he may have underperformed on the day, but considering his previous performance this seems unlikely. After all his hard work (and that of his superb teacher) he was very upset.
Janet, Harborough, Leicestershire

We have our Key Stage 2 results - but none of the papers have yet been returned to school. The results are highly suspect and we're likely to request remarking of most papers - if we ever get to see them. I've asked the QCA what they expect us to do. Ed Balls is in for plenty more flack come the autumn if this carries on. As Denis Healy used to say "when you're in a hole, stop digging".
Mike Shaw, Leeds, UK

"Ofqual had advised that there were no widespread concerns about the quality of marks". Rubbish, myself and 3 colleagues sat and checked through less than a quarter of our papers and found over 14 mistakes in the marks. The "High quality" marking from ETS seriously beggars belief, and once again the government will not accept that mistakes have been made. My year 9 students will not know their SATs results until September, it is highly unfair that the government publishes the results before the majority of pupils actually find out.
Claire, Manchester

Anecdotally I heard of a school where the results are all much better than anyone expected. "But we aren't going to say anything, are we?" was the attitude of staff. It just shows what a silly waste of time these "exams" are. It's a good thing we didn't choose our second-world-war leader for his exam. results. We must liberate teachers get on with the business of preparing young people for sustainable adult lives - not jumping through questionable hoops.
Robert Hall, Walsall

I have kept quiet for too long on the SATs fiasco. We received another school's papers for English and have still not received our own. ETS confidently stated that scores would be online despite us not being in possession of scripts. I confidently replied that any such scores would be invalid until we had the papers returned for scrutiny. To hear that the government is now to publish results beggars belief - who will have any confidence in the system. I would imagine that this is being done as the whole education system now relies upon these spurious results. How will Ofsted or indeed a School Improvement Partner (SIP) be able to to have that single conversation with schools with any confidence? It amazes me that the carbon trail on a bag of grapes can make headline news these days. At what cost a bag of SAT papers I wonder? There should be a national outcry at the cost of this ridiculous testing regime.
Stephen Breeze, Staffordshire

I have just completed my first year as a year 6 teacher in Wales after many years teaching year 6 in England. This year, I have been trusted to give Teacher Assesments. I have got evidence to back up my assessments built up over the year. Why does England continue with this farce of SATS-give teachers back their professionalism
Tracy, Wales

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