Ken Boston resigns

13 Dec 2008

You have to feel sorry for the head of the QCA, Ken Boston, who has resigned ahead of what will, clearly, be a critical report from Lord Sutherland into last summer's marking of the Key Stage 2 tests. The Sutherland report is due out next week and Boston has clearly had a sight of it.

 The government is no doubt greatly relieved that it has an arm's length relationship to the marking of the tests via the QCA.

 Poor Ken Boston arrived in the UK right in the middle of the row over A-level marking in 2002. Now he has fallen foul of the stresses and strains in the testing and assessment regime in England.

We shall have to await the Sutherland report to see quite how much blame attached to the QCA - as opposed to the contractor, the US company ETS - and whether there was any ministerial involvement in the decision-making.

Meanwhile the government insists that the Key Stage 2 tests are here to stay. Next year's marking will be somewhat easier as the Key Stage 3 tests have been scrapped. But the timescale will be short for the new contractor. The later has been chosen but the government has not yet announced who it is.

With the externally-marked tests now scrapped at both ages 7 and 14, the tests at 11 seem an anomaly. The government's justification is that they are needed for the accountability of primary schools. But if the proposed new 'report cards' can become the new accountability measure for primary schools, the way will be open for - at the very least -  a less high-stakes approach to the tests at 11.

Meanwhile what will happen at the QCA which is due to lose its watchdog role to the new Ofqual and will be reborn as the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency. The head of curriculum, Mick Waters - who might have made Chief Executive - has already announced his planned retirement. Will the government be looking for another international import, like last time. And who is willing to place their neck on the block?


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