Sutherland scathing on test marking

17 Dec 2008

 Lord Sutherland's report into this year's national curriculum test marking is, quite simply, scathing.  It includes strong criticism of both the American-owned contractor, ETS, and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. There are also minor criticisms of government.

The charges against ETS include:

  • its project management was 'not fit for purpose';
  • its level of customer service was 'wholly unacceptable and lacked professionalism'.  

The QCA failed in several respects, including:

  • failure to identify relevant information regarding ETS's reputation and track record;
  • failure to analyse ETS's staff capacity;
  • the QCA Board had 'insufficient oversight of the management and risks associated with the delivery of its biggest contract';

Government officials at the DCSF 'may not have challenged QCA sufficiently on its project and risk management'.

Overall Lord Sutherland says the whole delivery process for the tests needs to be modernised and improved, including a pilot of on-line marking.

Schools will be relieved to hear that he also says customer service must be 'vastly improved'. 

The big question for 2009 is whether the new contractor (almost certainly Edexcel) can deliver in the short time left. It has two big advantages, though. First, it has (unlike ETS) done it before. Second, after the scrapping of the Key Stage 3 tests the marking workload has been halved.

 The full report is available at:

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