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Assessments: Standards

Volume 472: debated on Monday 3 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what recent representations he has received from (a) hon. Members, (b) members of the House of Lords, (c) members of the teaching professions and (d) members of the public expressing concern about the maintenance of standards of (i) advanced level examinations and (ii) GCSE examinations; and if he will make a statement. (167392)

Since the beginning of August my Department has received 22 letters on issues related to exam standards—four from Members of Parliament, six from teachers and lecturers and 12 from other members of the public. These expressed a range of views, including support for the recognition of attainment as well as concern.

It is for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) as the qualifications regulator to oversee the awarding process to ensure that standards are comparable both between different qualifications and overtime. There is no evidence that overall standards have not been maintained. Nevertheless the debate about standards continues from year-to-year and we have acknowledged that the fact that the QCA reports to Ministers can make it harder to demonstrate that it is acting wholly independently in carrying out its regulatory role. That is why we have announced that we will legislate to create a new independent regulator of qualifications and tests, building on the QCA’s achievements in this area.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many (a) primary and (b) secondary schools have received a formal warning from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority about the way they conduct their national tests; and if he will make a statement. (188992)

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) is statutorily obliged to investigate any matter brought to its attention relating to the accuracy or correctness of the results of any pupil in respect of the statutory Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 National Curriculum tests. Such matters are referred to as allegations of maladministration. This remit is carried out by the National Assessment Agency (NAA), part of the QCA, with the aim of safeguarding the integrity of the tests and the interests of pupils.

The NAA’s remit in investigating cases of alleged maladministration is to determine whether there is doubt over the correctness or accuracy of pupil results. The NAA does not issue formal warnings. The sanction applied where a case of maladministration is proven is the annulment or change of results for individual pupils or for the whole school. The 2007 maladministration report is available to view at: and a copy will be placed in the House Library.