Rowen puts minister on the spot over SAT chaos!

July 28, 2008 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP - Holding the Government to accountRochdale MP and former teacher Paul Rowen has challenged School's Minister Ed Balls over the fiasco over SATS or Key Stage 3 tests. Mr Rowen challenged Mr Balls in a Westminster Hall debate. The debate centred on the shambles over marking. Mr Rowen spoke of 'serious concerns' over the standard of marking.

Many schools in Rochdale have been affected and the Liberal Democrats are leading calls for the SATS to be scrapped.

Mr Rowen said to Mr Balls: "Given that Ofqual is a new creation, what is the basis for the Secretary of State's assertion that the quality of marking is at least as good this year as previously? Given what he has heard from honorary members, and in the media, is it not time that he admitted that there are serious concerns about the quality of marking? What is he going to do about it?"

Mr Rowen said after the debate: "I am afraid that sticking your head in the sand and pretending that there is not a problem is not helping our young people one iota. I am afraid, the Government is letting us down.

"The whole fiasco over late results and the questions about standards had done enormous damage for our education system.

"It's high time the Government looked at scrapping SATS and investing the money to identify and address educational failure where it first arises - in infant and primary schools.

"The smugness and arrogance was evident in the Commons Chamber when Schools Minister Ed Balls finally came to the Commons to update us on the SATS fiasco. His refusal to apologise or admit any wrong doing by his department and his assertion that the marking this year was as good as in previous years was breathtaking. He was roundly criticised by MPs from all parties. I questioned him about his evidence that the marking was at least as good as in previous years.

"It is not, as the evidence from local schools shows. The marks are already three weeks late and it will be the end of September before the result of any appeals is known. It is a worrying time for both pupils and their parents. This is wholly unacceptable and unprecedented since SATS were introduced in the 1990s. Many Rochdale schoolchildren will have gone away for the summer holiday without knowing their results."

Mr Balls answered: "As I have said already, the answer is that Ofqual, the independent regulator in these matters, wrote to me on 4 July to say that, in its judgment and according to the information that it had so far, the quality of marking was at least as high as in previous years.

"The chairman of Ofqual said on the radio last week that the organisation was monitoring marking quality closely. If there is evidence of a problem with the quality of marking, Ofqual will act and also advise me, but that is not where we are today, and nor is it the advice that we are receiving. Advice on exam marking, standards and quality should not come from Ministers or the QCA which sets the tests. It is much better for that advice to come from an independent regulator, and that is why we have introduced the reform."