Magazine article Public Finance

Poor Marks

Magazine article Public Finance

Poor Marks

Article excerpt

Poor old Ed Balls. Just when most MPs are chucking their order papers in the air, as they head off for the long summer recess, the schools secretary is having to stay behind to handle an unholy row over Sats marking.

He swears it wasn't his fault Responsibility for the non-marking or mismarking of the Standard Assessment Tests for 11 and 14-year-olds lies at arm's length, says the minister. It was the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority that contracted the job to the US company ETS, and it would be inappropriate for him to interfere.

Balls has set up an inquiry to find out why so many pupils could be going into the new school year without externally validated test results, throwing schools and league tables into disarray. But this will not report for months and the Opposition and media - bored with goading Brown and Darling - have decided it's time to give Balls a good kicking.

There's plenty to answer for. What kind of vetting was done before handing over the already troubled Sats contract? Was the five-year, ?165m procurement deal made principally on cost grounds? And is it really true that teenagers and cocktail waitresses' were used to mark papers?

These kind of discussions are 'highly sensitive', insists Balls. …

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