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Education: Assessments

Volume 477: debated on Monday 16 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many national tests a primary school pupil takes between the ages of five and 11; and if he will make a statement. (211019)

There are statutory national curriculum tests at two points in primary education, at the end of key stage 1, when most pupils are aged seven, and at the end of key stage 2, when most pupils are aged 11. Teachers informally administer national tasks and tests in reading, writing and mathematics during pupils’ final year in key stage 1 to inform their final teacher assessment at the end of the key stage. National tasks and tests in key stage 1 are not externally marked. At the end of key stage 2, pupils take national curriculum tests in English, mathematics and science.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) if he will make a statement on progress in marking key stage tests in the 2007-08 academic year; and what plans he has to improve the performance of marking contractor ETS; (211020)

(2) when (a) the National Assessment Agency, (b) his Department and (c) he was first informed of the recent performance in relation to marking of the national curriculum tests; what remedial steps were taken; and if he will make a statement.

The administration and marking of national curriculum tests, as part of the process for maintaining standards, is a function of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) that is delivered independently of Government. The National Assessment Agency (NAA) manages the marking process with ETS Europe on the QCA's behalf. The QCA is fully accountable for the delivery of national tests and reports formally to the Department through Management Boards and the supply of regular management information. The QCA/NAA have kept the Department informed about the new test delivery arrangements and the improvements to marking quality throughout the preparation for test delivery.

I take a close interest in national curriculum test delivery. My officials are in regular contact with the National Assessment Agency and keep me informed of progress. David Gee, Managing Director of the NAA, will write to the hon. member about the progress of the marking of the key stage tests and the action they are taking to support their new contractor, ETS Europe, in delivering this summer's tests. A copy of his letter has been placed in the Library.

Letter from David Gee, dated 12 June 2008:

I have been asked to write to you in response to your parliamentary question about the progress of the marking of key stage tests and any plans for improving the performance of ETS.

This year because of the deployment of technology in to the marking process, it is the first time the NAA has had specific information on marking progress available. As at 11 June, 59.7 per cent. of papers have been marked with marks securely entered online.

The NAA has been collating performance data and feedback from schools, markers and exam officers throughout the current test cycle. The NAA will ensure that ETS uses this information to make improvements for future cycles and we will use contractual penalties where there has been poor performance.