Schools marking fiasco down to poor training, MPs told

Late changes to how School Attainment Tests (SATs) markers were trained contributed to this summer’s test marking fiasco, MPs were told yesterday.

Philip Tabbiner, a representative of ETS Europe, which was contracted by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and the National Assessment Agency (NAA) to arrange the marking of the tests, told the House of Commons Schools Committee of the training issues his company had dealt with.

He said that in March NAA told ETS that it could not train markers online, as it had planned to do for half of them. This meant they had to be trained face-to-face which, said Tabbiner, led to problems in finding and hiring venues and trainers.

He said timing was critical for “a number of facets” of the contract for it to be delivered to agreed standards and on time.

“Because of delays regarding the design of the online training, and the design of the contracts with teachers, we ran into severe delays,” he said. “We lost between three to five months, depending on how you might look at that, in the cycle as a result of NAA procrastinating around decisions over the online training and the contracts for markers.”

In an online reader forum, a head of maths, Steve Wren, said the training arrangements were “shambolic”.

“Markers in some cases were given 24 hours notice that they would have to travel 200 miles to attend marker training. ETS trained too many markers – so much so that many never received a single script to mark,” said Wren.

ETS’s contract with the QCA was cancelled in August, at a cost of £50m to ETS, according to Tabbiner.

Buckingham University professor of education Alan Smithers has said the decision to use ETS was “disastrous”.

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