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National Assessment Agency: Ofqual

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 11 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) what involvement Ofqual had in the procurement process that led to the award of the standard assessment test administration contract to ETS referred to at paragraph 2.50 of the Sutherland Inquiry report HC 62; (245829)

(2) for what reasons the meeting between the National Assessment Agency and Ofqual requested in May did not take place until July, as referred to in paragraph 6.96 of the Sutherland Inquiry report HC 62.

The Department does not hold this information. Isabel Nisbet, acting chief executive of the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator (Ofqual) has written to the hon. Member and a copy of the response has been placed in both the Libraries.

Letter from Isabel Nisbet, dated 9 January 2009:

In his written response to you on the Parliamentary Questions listed above, the Minister of State for Schools and Learners stated that these were questions relating to the conduct of the new regulator Ofqual. He has therefore asked Ofqual to write directly to you in response to these questions. For ease of reference the questions were:

(245825) To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, for what reasons the meeting between the National Assessment Agency and Ofqual requested in May did not take place until July, as referred to in paragraph 6.96 of the Sutherland Inquiry report, (HC 62).

(245829) To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, what the nature was of Ofqual’s involvement in the procurement process that led to the award of the SAT administration contract to ETS referred to at paragraph 2.50 of the Sutherland Inquiry report, (HC 62).

As you are aware Ofqual was created in April 2008 on an interim basis, within the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). Before this time the regulatory functions were carried out by the Regulation and Standards Division of the QCA, and I was its Director.

In PQ 245825 you have asked about the accountability meeting that Ofqual held with the National Assessment Agency (NAA) in July 2008. In dealing with the issues of delivery in 2008 Ofqual advised the NAA in May 2008 of its intention to hold an accountability meeting. Its purpose was analogous to that of the formal accountability meetings held with the GCSE and A level awarding bodies a week before the results of those examinations are due to be announced. At these meetings the awarding body is required to provide assurances that the code of practice has been followed, that all papers have been marked and that results will be available on time. It is also an opportunity for the regulator and the awarding body to highlight concerns about any aspect of the past series.

With regard to the tests in 2009, Ofqual now holds quarterly formal accountability meetings with QCA, and the first of these was held on 2 December 2008. The third of these (planned for May 2009) will be an opportunity to bring together any emerging issues regarding problems with marking or preparation to deliver results.

To answer PQ245829, as the Sutherland Inquiry states at paragraph 2.48 ‘although the Regulator had not been formally involved in the procurement process, they were in July 2006 asked informally about how proposed changes to the National Curriculum test process might impact the Code of Practice’. Regulatory requirements were taken into account. Copies of the Regulatory Framework and the Code of Practice were supplied to all bidders by the NAA. The Regulation and Standards Division also offered all bidders the opportunity to contact them with any further queries. As Director of Regulation and Standards I was a member of the QCA Executive at the time the contract was awarded.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me (contact details below) or Helen Knee on 024 7671 6705 and helen.knee@ofqual.gov.uk.

I am copying this letter to Kathleen Tattersall, Chair of Ofqual, and to Jim Knight, Minister of State for Schools and Learners.