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Second SATs Leak Sees Y6 Test Answers Published Online

DfE blames 'rogue marker' for making spelling, punctuation and grammar test answers available via password-protected Pearson website

  • Second SATs Leak Sees Y6 Test Answers Published Online

Following on from the cancellation of this year’s KS1 spelling, punctuation and grammar test, after it emerged the Standards and Testing Agency had made the test paper available via its website, today sees news of another SATs leak.

This time round, the leak concerns a KS2 grammar, punctuation and spelling test paper due to be taken by 600,000 10- and 11-year-olds.

The answers appeared for around four hours on a password-protected website for registered test markers, or Assessment Associates, run by the marking services provider, Pearson. There have also been indications that the leak in this instance wasn’t accidental.

According to a DfE source quoted by the BBC, “While the test doesn’t appear to have leaked into the public domain and can go ahead, a rogue marker did attempt to leak the test’s contents.” The BBC further quoted the source as blaming an “Active campaign by those people opposed to our reforms to undermine these tests.”

Schools Minister Nick Gibb has since issued a statement on the matter before Parliament, in which he confirmed that the test was ‘mistakenly’ uploaded to the Pearson website at around 5pm yesterday, and was taken down soon after the DfE was made aware of the error by the media at around 9.30pm.

Noting that it’s standard practice for ‘key individuals’ to be granted access to assessment materials prior to the day of testing, Gibb proceeded to confirm earlier reports of a deliberate leak: “Clearly, in this system, it is essential that people in positions of trust can be relied on to act appropriately. Unfortunately, in this case, it appears that one person did not, and leaked the KS2 English grammar, punctuation and spelling test to a journalist.”

The Minister went to state that Pearson UK president, Rod Bristow, has now been tasked with investigating how the material came to be uploaded to the secure site a day early, and examining the company’s records in order to identify the individual responsible for the leak.

Gibb added, “The journalist in question took the decision not to publish the test papers and I am grateful to him for that. Although this is a serious breach – and I am determined to get to the bottom of how this error occurred – it is clear that the actions of almost every marker involved have been correct and proper, and that the integrity of the tests has not been compromised.”

“Unacceptable farce”

Leaks aside, the tests in question have been opposed by unions over the way they’ve been managed and the data they’re set to obtain. Responding to news of today’s leak, NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said in a statement, “This second error in the administration of SATs undermines the hard work of pupils and teachers and calls into question the government’s ability to manage an exam system of such scale and such high stakes.

“The government may be tempted to pass this off as human error. It is not. Massive, rushed and chaotic reforms have eroded confidence, consent and capacity. It is time to stop.”

There was further criticism from ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted, who commented, “School leaders and teachers found guilty of improper test preparation are barred from the profession. Nicky Morgan and Nick Gibb seem to think that they can keep on carrying on – causing uncertainty, stress and anxiety for pupils, parents and staff in schools throughout England.

“Ministers were warned, repeatedly, that there was insufficient time and resources to manage curriculum, qualification and test changes at this scale and pace. They did not listen, and the current test chaos is the unhappy result. Ministers must now accept the blame for this unacceptable farce.”

Opposition to the tests has also come from parents, some of whom last week staged a widely publicised ‘SATs boycott’ as part of the ‘Let Our Kids Be Kids’ campaign, in protest at the perceived frequency of SATs testing and resulting pressures and stress on pupils.

Nick Gibb’s made a point of addressing the wider concerns regarding primary assessment when concluding his Parliamentary statement today. He said, “There are some who say that tests are inherently wrong. That we shouldn’t test children. That we are creating a regime that is overly stressful. I disagree.

“Testing is a vital part of teaching: it is the most accurate way – bar none – that a teacher, school or parent can know whether a pupil has or has not understood vital subject content. What is more, the process of taking a test actually improves pupil knowledge and understanding. As such, testing should be a routine and normalised part of school life. When the time for national curriculum assessments comes around, pupils should be entirely accustomed to the process.”

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