Ball’s interference to blame for Sats fiasco

By Ian Dunt

Ed Ball’s interference during the Sats fiasco contributed to the collapse of the system, according to a committee of MPs.

Micro-management of the system by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) prevented the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) from reforming the tests, MPs said.

American firm ETS, which had its contract terminated over the fiasco, shouldered most of the blame for the fiasco when an independent inquiry into the affair was commissioned by the DCSF and the exams watchdog Ofqua.

The QCA was criticised for failing to prevent an escalation of the problem.

But today’s report by the committee responsible for schools adds ministers to the list of those responsible.

Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws said: “This report discredits Ed Balls’ previous attempts to shift all of the blame for the marking fiasco on to the QCA.

“It’s clear that his department played a key role in the failure to deliver the test results on time.

“It is outrageous that so-called observers were influencing a public body in this way.”

Ministers were criticised for acting as if they had not been involved, despite micro-managing the scheme, and failing to take any blame.

Mr Balls also knew of problems earlier than he admitted, said the committee, and the department was culpable for establishing a testing system so vast it was regularly vulnerable to failure.

“There is no question that events in the summer of 2008 were incredibly disruptive for a significant minority of pupils, parents and teachers,” said Barry Sheerman, chairman of the committee.

“We have identified significant flaws in the Department’s management of its relationship with QCA. We intend to monitor closely the work of Ofqual to make certain its independence as a regulator is beyond doubt.”

Mr Balls scrapped tests for 14-year-olds and science papers for 11-year-olds in the aftermath of the fiasco.