Thoughts on the latest fiasco

oopsgpsIf I’m honest, I feel a bit sorry for the DfE today. But Nick Gibb did his best to temper any sympathy I felt. So here are a few thoughts on the latest in what seems to have been a long run of cock-ups – the accidental release of GPS test papers and mark schemes to markers a day early.

The DfE are off the hook (well, almost)

It seems that this particular mistake was entirely the fault of the private contractor, Pearson. The department has outsourced the marking arrangements, fairly reasonably, and the organisation has let them down. Notably, the Chief Executive of that company admitted their mistakes immediately. Perhaps something the minster could learn from here?

Tests weren’t compromised

In reality, fewer than 100 people actually accessed the tests, all of whom were under contractual obligation to keep confidential any knowledge they acquired in the course of their work. Nick Gibb was right to say that many markers already have such access and have to be trusted to keep it to themselves. I see no evidence that a test paper was actually shared, so no reason to cancel the tests particularly.

No evidence of a ‘rogue’ marker

I also see no evidence that any test paper was “passed to a journalist”. The fact that a journalist came to know of the error is not the same thing. As yet, we don’t know how that came about, and so Nick Gibb had no business making such claims. This smacks of desperation, and as Tony Parkin commented on the Schools Week article earlier today, it may be that had the marker not alerted the press, that we would never have known about it. Personally, I prefer that the department be held to account, particularly given its wholly incompetent handling of the whole assessment debacle elsewhere. If the marker who shared the information had really intended to undermine the tests, it could far more efficiently have been done by many other means that reporting to a reputable journalist.

Sources must be protected

Journalists have every right (and hopefully ever intention) to protect their sources. The 93 markers who downloaded the document should not be harassed our accused in any way. For a start, at least 92 of them have done nothing wrong, and should not be hampered by the errors caused by their employer. Indeed, they are owed an apology for being put in this very difficult position.

In the case of the 93rd, it should absolutely be the case that Pearson should investigate how it became possible for this incident to occur. I cannot see how any further action could be taken to identify who shared the information.

No harm done today

In the grand scheme of things, this ought to be a minor sideline at the end of a news bulletin. Mistakes happen every year with exams; it’s inevitable. It’s a massive operation running on very tight timescales. There was no real harm done to students or teachers today, only to reputations at Pearson and the DfE.

The only reason that it has become such a big story is because it comes on the back of error, after error, after error. And all in a rush which was widely predicted to be catastrophic by the profession.

I feel for the civil servants who have been forced to rush through the rapid changes in unmanageable time frames. But I have no sympathy at all for ministers who have time and time again claimed that they “make no apology” for their actions. It’s time they recognised that this year’s assessment process has been a disgrace, and that they  – to use a word of Nick Gibb’s choice today – are the culprits.

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9 thoughts on “Thoughts on the latest fiasco

  1. Mal 10 May 2016 at 7:16 pm Reply

    hmmmmmmm………… too kind?

  2. julietgreen 10 May 2016 at 7:27 pm Reply

    It’s been a continuing saga of incompetence and indifference for two years.

  3. Ringtons 10 May 2016 at 7:27 pm Reply

    Aren’t some of the markers current Y6 teachers? How will they ensure that their children weren’t given an advantage?

    • Michael Tidd 10 May 2016 at 7:38 pm Reply

      The same way they always have to: on faith. The system doesn’t work otherwise!

  4. teachingbattleground 10 May 2016 at 8:01 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  5. Mal 10 May 2016 at 10:50 pm Reply

    Hmmmmmm………………. too trusting?

  6. Rachel Swaffield 11 May 2016 at 7:41 am Reply

    Stakes are so high for schools now I wouldn’t be surprised if some were tempted…..

  7. HelenS 11 May 2016 at 9:50 pm Reply

    So sad to have the finger of suspicion pointed at teachers. They are qualified professionals and should be respected as such. Struggling in a ridiculous situation – they care about the children (that is what it’s about), the higher eschalons – not so much (it seems).
    I have always believed managers take the blame (they are paid to) never the people further along the pecking order. Come on ministers – where is YOUR integrity?

  8. Jo90 26 May 2016 at 4:51 pm Reply

    Anyone else spotted the error in the KS1 SATs paper?
    Obviously the details cannot be discussed just yet, but have a look at question 26… one of the two ‘correct’ answers does not match the question. Yet another mistake in an ever increasing list!

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