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Education: Assessments

Volume 479: debated on Monday 1 September 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what proportion of (a) key stage 2 and (b) key stage 3 (i) English, (ii) mathematics and (iii) science test papers had been marked and results entered into the computer system on each day from 15 June 2008 to 7 July 2008; and if he will make a statement; (217693)

(2) what plans he has to impose financial penalties on ETS for the time taken to produce the key stage 2 and key stage 3 results in 2008; and if he will make a statement;

(3) how much is due to be paid to ETS for the administration and marking of the key stage 2 and 3 tests in (a) 2007-08, (b) 2008-09, (c) 2009-10 and (d) 2010-11; and if he will make a statement.

The administration and marking of national curriculum tests 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 within QCA. I have therefore asked David Gee, Managing Director of the NAA, to write to the hon. Member. A copy of his letter has been placed in the Library.

Letter from David Gee, dated 15 July 2008:

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Rt Hon Ed Balls, has asked me to write to you to answer to a number of parliamentary questions you recently asked.

The questions you have asked pertain to information that the National Assessment Agency either does not currently hold in the form you have requested or which relate to information that may be subject to an obligation of confidentiality or may be commercially sensitive.

Some elements of the information you sought may be available when the test delivery cycle is complete. If that is the case, I will write to you again as soon as possible.

The total value of the contract over 5 years is £156 million.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families whether staff from the National Assessment Agency have been seconded to work with ETS on the key stage tests in 2008; and if he will make a statement. (217695)

The National Assessment Agency (NAA) have informed us that there are no NAA employees seconded to ETS Europe. There are, however, approximately 70 QCA/NAA staff actively working with ETS to ensure the delivery of results to schools.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many complaints about the marking of the key stage tests have been received by (a) his Department, (b) the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, (c) the National Assessment Agency and (d) ETS in 2008; and if he will make a statement. (217698)

By 16 July, the Department had received 204 letters and e-mails about national curriculum tests. Of the 82 that have received replies, 33 were about the administration of the marking process.

We are advised that, by 11 July, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) had received 58 complaints and the NAA 552 complaints.

Letter from David Gee, dated 9 July 2008:

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Rt Hon Ed Balls, has asked me to write to you to answer parliamentary question 217698.

ETS Europe are not yet able to provide information on the number of complaints they have received as their resources are working to complete marking, data entry and communications to schools.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what the cost of marking the key stage 2 and key stage 3 tests was in 2007; what he estimates it will be in 2008; and if he will make a statement. (217699)

The administration and marking of national curriculum tests 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 within the QCA. I have therefore asked David Gee, managing director of the NAA, to write to the hon. Member. A copy of his letter has been placed in the Library.

Letter from David Gee to Mr Laws, dated 15 July 2008:

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Rt Hon Ed Balls, has asked me to write to you to answer parliamentary question 217699.

The contracts that govern the delivery of national curriculum tests do not explicitly separate the cost of marking from other delivery related activities. It is therefore not possible to fully disaggregate the cost of marking from other contract costs for either 2007 or 2008.

While I cannot provide exact figures, the NAA estimates that the cost of marking is in the vicinity of £14 million for both 2007 and 2008. This figure incorporates estimates for the cost of marker fees, marker training and venue hire.

More information on the cost of marking for 2008 will be available after the conclusion of the marking cycle including the completion of marking reviews. I will be happy to give you a further update at this time.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) when he was first informed of problems with the marking of the 2008 key stage 2 and key stage 3 tests; and if he will make a statement; (218004)

(2) when his Department was first informed that the key stage 2 and 3 national test results would not be sent to schools by 8 July 2008; and if he will make a statement;

(3) when his Department was first informed that delays were occurring in the marking of key stage national test papers; and if he will make a statement.

The National Assessment Agency (NAA), the division of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) which delivers the national curriculum tests alerted the Department to a number of issues with delivery of national curriculum tests during the test delivery period. We sought and received consistent and regular assurances that the action being taken would resolve those issues and keep the NAA on track for release of results to schools on schedule.

The Department was alerted to more significant delivery problems on 1 July. Ken Boston, the chief executive of QCA, wrote to me on 2 July confirming that he expected there would be delays in publishing national curriculum test results, both because marking would not be complete by 8 July, and because of technical issues around data transfer.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) how many emails have been received by ETS from (a) exam markers and (b) team leaders in the last 12 months; how many have been answered; and what the (i) average, (ii) longest and (iii) shortest period of time taken to respond was; (218083)

(2) what targets have been set in relation to the time taken by ETS to answer telephone calls from exam markers and their team leaders; and to what extent those targets have been met;

(3) what telephone numbers are provided to ETS exam markers in order to access assistance or advice; and how many telephone calls have been answered on each of those lines in each of the last 12 months.

The administration and marking of national curriculum tests 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 within the QCA. I have therefore asked David Gee, Managing Director of the NAA, to write to the hon. Member. A copy of his letter has been placed in the Library.

Letter from David Gee, dated 1 September 2008:

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, right hon. Ed Balls, has asked me to write to you to answer to a number of parliamentary questions you recently asked.

The questions you have asked pertain to information that the National Assessment Agency either does not currently hold in the form you have requested or which relate to information that may be subject to an obligation of confidentiality or may be commercially sensitive.

Some elements of the information you sought may be available when the test delivery cycle is complete. If that is the case, I will write to you again as soon as possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families which organisation has been awarded the contract to mark key stage national test papers in 2009; and if he will make a statement. (218227)

In 2007 the National Assessment Agency (NAA) awarded ETS Europe a five-year contract from 2008 to 2012, to provide external test delivery services for national curriculum tests.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families for what reasons the results of the key stage 2 and key stage 3 tests which had been marked as at 8 July 2008 have been withheld from schools; and if he will make a statement. (219215)

The administration and marking of national curriculum tests is a function of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). Ken Boston, Chief Executive of the QCA, informed the Department of a potential delay to results on 1 July, and wrote to me on 2 July to confirm that he expected there to be delays in publishing the results of national curriculum tests. This was both because marking would not be complete by 8 July, and because of technical issues around data transfer.

Following extensive discussions between the Department and QCA and after further advice from Ken Boston, including in a letter to me of 3 July, the Secretary of State wrote to Barry Sheerman, the Chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, to inform him that Key Stage 2 results would be delayed by a week until 15 July, with Key Stage 3 results that are available to be released by the end of the week of 15 July.

QCA advised that the delays would enable the vast majority of Key Stage 2 marking to be complete. In the case of Key Stage 3, while it would take longer to complete results, the delay would ensure that as many schools as possible to receive results before the end of term. The decision to delay results to all schools was to enable the process to happen in an orderly fashion, minimising uncertainty for schools.

We understand that this delay will inconvenience many schools, and we share their frustration and disappointment. NAA is using every measure at its disposal to ensure that all results are delivered as quickly as possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what proportion of 2008 key stage 3 tests in English had been marked at the latest date for which figures are available. (220481)

The administration and marking of national curriculum tests is a function of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) that is delivered independently of Government. The National Assessment Agency (NAA) is responsible for the marking process, which is managed by ETS Europe, their test delivery contractor.

We have been advised by NAA that 71 per cent. of pupils’ key stage 3 English results have been released to schools on Friday 18 July 2008. NAA also advised that there are still some scripts remaining to be marked; other scripts have been marked but are awaiting data entry and technical issues have caused delays to this process.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what criteria were used to assess ETS Europe during the procurement process for the contract to deliver standard assessment tests; (220493)

(2) from which organisations his Department sought references on ETS as part of the procurement process for the SAT contract.

The administration and marking of national curriculum tests is a function of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) that is delivered independently of Government. The National Assessment Agency (NAA) is responsible for the marking process, which is managed by ETS Europe, their test delivery contractor. I have therefore asked David Gee, managing director of the NAA, to write to the hon. Member. A copy of his letter has been placed in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families when he was informed of problems with the standard assessment testing and marking systems and the particular problems with the ETS Europe contract. (220497)

The National Assessment Agency (NAA), the division of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) which delivers the national curriculum tests alerted the Department to a number of issues with delivery of national curriculum tests during the test delivery period. We sought and received consistent and regular assurances that the action being taken would resolve those issues and keep the NAA and ETS Europe, their test delivery contractor, on track for release of results to schools on schedule.

The Department was alerted to more significant delivery problems on 1 July. Ken Boston, the chief executive of QCA, wrote to me on 2 July confirming that he expected there would be delays in publishing national curriculum test results, both because marking would not be complete by 8 July, and because of technical issues around data transfer.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families when the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) first became aware that there were potential problems with the standard assessment testing and marking systems; and when the QCA informed Ministers of those potential problems. (220498)

The administration and marking of national curriculum tests is a function of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) that is delivered independently of Government. The National Assessment Agency (NAA) is responsible for the marking process, which is managed by ETS Europe, their test delivery contractor. I have therefore asked David Gee, Managing Director of the NAA, to write to the hon. Member. A copy of his letter has been placed in the Library.

Letter from David Gee, dated 21 July 2008:

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Rt Hon Ed Balls, has asked me to write to you to answer parliamentary question 220498.

The National Assessment Agency (a subsidiary of the QCA) has closely monitored the development of ETS marking systems since the company was first awarded the contract in early 2007.

The NAA alerted the Department to a number of issues with delivery of national curriculum tests during the test delivery period.

The NAA first formally challenged ETS on marking completion on 23 June 2008. ETS responded on the 26 June 2008.

The Secretary of State was alerted on Tuesday 1 July 2008 to these more significant delivery problems. Ken Boston, the Chief Executive of QCA, wrote to Jim Knight on 2 July confirming that he expected there would be delays in releasing national curriculum test results, both because marking would not be complete by 8 July, and because of technical issues around data transfer.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what meetings attended by Ministers and officials from his Department on the standard assessment tests and marking system were held between September 2007 and 26th June 2008. (220517)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular meetings with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), of which the National Assessment Agency (NAA) is a division. Recent meetings have included discussions on the administration and marking of Key Stage tests in 2008, which are now the subject of an independent inquiry being chaired by Lord Sutherland.

Between September 2007 and 26 June 2008 my officials have met with NAA routinely to discuss national curriculum test delivery. The Department is represented on the QCA Board as an observer. Senior officers from QCA and officials from this Department meet every six weeks, to discuss QCA's core business, including national curriculum test delivery. A monthly Assessment Board, chaired by a senior official, was established in March 2008 to oversee the delivery of the Department's assessment policy.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families when Lord Sutherland’s report into the delivery of the Department’s policy by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the National Assessment Agency will be published. (220518)

We have agreed that Lord Sutherland’s inquiry into the delivery of National Curriculum tests will report to both the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and Ofqual in the autumn, and that those reports will be published. Lord Sutherland will confirm a date for publication of the final reports in the autumn.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many key stage 2 pupils received a teacher assessment grading their performance at level six or higher in (a) 2007 and (b) 2006. (220784)

The number of Key Stage 2 pupils who received a teacher assessment grading their performance at level six in 2007 is available in Table 3b of the Statistical First Release titled “National Curriculum Assessments at Key Stage 2 in England, 2007 (Provisional)” which is available at:

http://www.dfes.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000737/index.shtml

The number of Key Stage 2 pupils who received a teacher assessment grading their performance at level six in 2006 is available in Table 3b of the Statistical First Release titled “National Curriculum Assessments at Key Stage 2 in England, 2006 (Provisional)” which is available at:

http://www.dfes.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000673/index.shtml

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families how many Key stage 2 pupils achieved a level five result in at least one subject in 2007. (220785)

The available information is contained in Table 4a of the Statistical First Release titled “National Curriculum Assessments at Key Stage 2 in England, 2007 (Revised)” which can be found at:

http://www.dfes.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000764/index.shtml

The table contains percentage of Key Stage 2 pupils who achieved a level five result in at least one subject in 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what steps were taken by his Department to corroborate the evidence offered by the State Education Board of California in its role as referee for ETS's tender for the contract to mark Key Stage 2 and 3 examinations; (220787)

(2) what the difference was between the cost of the tender put forward by ETS for the contract to mark Key Stage 2 and 3 examinations and those put forward by other bidders.

The administration and marking of national curriculum tests is a function of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) that is delivered independently of Government. The National Assessment Agency (NAA) is responsible for the marking process, which is managed by ETS Europe, their test delivery contractor. I have therefore asked David Gee, managing director of the NAA, to write to the hon. Member. A copy of his letter has been placed in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will publish the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s strategy in respect of the introduction of online systems for assessment run by ETS. (221040)

The administration and marking of national curriculum tests is a function of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) that is delivered independently of Government. The National Assessment Agency (NAA) is responsible for the marking process, which is managed by ETS Europe, their test delivery contractor. I have therefore asked David Gee, Managing Director of the NAA, to write to the hon. Member. A copy of his letter has been placed in the Library.

Letter from David Gee, dated 21 July 2008:

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Rt Hon Ed Balls, has asked me to write to you to answer parliamentary question 221040.

The NAA’s invitation to tender for the procurement of test delivery services required bidders to offer proposals to improve the quality of marking and capture additional item and question level data from pupils. The successful bidder, ETS Europe proposed several on-line online solutions for the delivery of the 2008 test cycle, of which the following three were accepted:

1. On-line standardisation

2. On-line Mark capture

3. On-line benchmarking (Quality assurance during marking).

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what correspondence he has had with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority since 30 March 2008; and if he will place in the Library copies of the correspondence. (221041)

[holding answer 22 July 2008]: The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) publish a copy of all official correspondence between the Secretary of State and QCA on their website three times a year. A copy of the correspondence up until the end of April 2008 is currently available on QCA's website and this will be updated at the end of October 2008 to cover correspondence from May to August 2008. The QCA's website can be accessed at:

www.qca.org.uk.

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families at what point the identified risks relating to the implementation of new online systems of assessment through ETS were entered on his Department’s corporate risk register. (221042)

[holding answer 22 July 2008]: Risks and mitigations for the introduction of new delivery processes in 2008 for the end of the key stage tests were entered on the Department’s high level risk register on 5 July 2007.