Ed Balls Misled Public Over SATs

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Ken Boston, former chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) who is blamed for last year’s school testing fiasco, is to accuse Ed Balls, the children’s secretary, of misleading the public by denying any responsibility.

The Times Online reports that Mr Boston is likely to tell MPs that ministers were “active participants” and “in no way at arm’s length” as the problems of tests multiplied. He is also expected to say that he warned ministers for years that a disaster was possible and that there was a “high risk” of failure this year.

Mr Boston offered his resignation last December following a damning inquiry by Lord Sutherland, but this was turned down and he was instead suspended. His resignation, described as “a tragedy” by the headteachers’ union leader John Dunford, was accepted only this month.

Last year’s Sats tests, used to compile league tables, were taken by more than a million children aged 11 and 14. However, ETS, the American company that won a £156m contract with the QCA to administer marking, was unable to cope.

There was chaos when thousands of papers were sent to the wrong markers, 100,000 unmarked tests were returned to schools, others were found piled in warehouses, computer systems failed and calls to help-lines went unanswered.

About 30,000 pupils went into the summer holidays not knowing results. For some, this meant an uncertain start to secondary school as staff were unsure what ability set they should be placed in.

When news of the crisis broke last July, Balls told the Commons that Ken Boston had reassured him the previous month that the results were on track. He stated he found out about the delay only on July 1.

Mr Boston contradicted Mr Balls in a letter to Sutherland’s inquiry, saying that ministers had access to exactly the same data and information as the QCA and that they were active participants.

19/04/09

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