Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Schools Minister Gave His Backing to 'Risky' Sats Marking System; Support: Ed Balls Wrote to the QCA

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Schools Minister Gave His Backing to 'Risky' Sats Marking System; Support: Ed Balls Wrote to the QCA

Article excerpt

Byline: TIM ROSS

SCHOOLS Secretary Ed Balls personally backed the crisis-hit new marking system for Sats despite admitting it was a "risk", the Standard can reveal.

He sent a letter supporting the plan for an online results service that failed to work, delaying grades for 1.2 million children.

More than 100,000 children are thought to have started their summer holidays without knowing their results and will only discover their grades in September.

But just five weeks before pupils took their tests, Mr Balls wrote to the head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority saying he was "encouraged" by the "improvements in marking quality" that would be made this year.

The letter to Ken Boston, dated 30 March, said: "I am particularly pleased with the improvements in the service to schools by providing electronic results." The new online system should give teachers more detail about the marks pupils score on individual test questions to help children improve, he said.

Mr Balls added that "online systems, although they confer many benefits, are also subject to risk when first introduced".

However, he said he was pleased with plans for "mitigating the risk to the tests" and asked to be "kept informed" of progress. The electronic results system for nearly 10 million test papers failed to work as planned, meaning grades could not be returned to schools on time.

The Conservatives said the revelations "destroyed" the minister's claim that he was not involved in the Sats fiasco.

Mr Balls faced a grilling in the Commons yesterday over his handling of the case. He has already refused to apologise for the shambles, insisting that tests are run "at arm's length" from the Government.

Mr Balls has repeatedly insisted that the prime responsibility for Sats lies with the QCA, a government quango, and ETS Europe, the firm hired to run the tests. …

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