The Department for Education is scrambling to deal with another embarrassing leak of test material that were supposed to have been secure.
The Key Stage 2 spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG) exam was put online last night and was accessible behind a password just hours before 600,000 Year 6 students were to take the test. An individual the Department is calling a “rogue” marker attempted to leak the login information and password to the media ahead of the test date.
London-based Pearson, which is the world’s largest provider of testing and curriculum, was responsible for the exam, and only their trained, appointed markers had access to the information.
The Department for Education said that there was “no evidence to suggest [the test] was leaked into the public domain.”
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that only 93 of about 5,000 markers accessed the material, and one — the “rogue” marker — attempted to disseminate the test credentials to the media for unknown reasons. Gibb said:
“Somebody decided their own opinions were more important than their professional integrity.”
Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell called the marker a ‘whistleblower’ and has used the opportunity to criticise the Government’s mismanagement of testing, telling The Mirror that:
“The question is not whether a whistleblower was right or wrong in bringing to public attention that this SATs paper was published in advance, but why the paper was put up in a teacher forum 24 hours before the test in the first place.”
The Department for Education’s testing regime has been the subject of tremendous criticism of late, after tens of thousands of parents protested SATs exams for Year 2 students, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan was lambasted at the NAHT head teachers conference, and mental health champion Natasha Devon was made redundant after speaking out against what she saw as an overtesting culture that fueled student anxiety.
BBC reports that this is the second time in three weeks that primary-level exam answers have been compromised ahead of a test. A test for 500,000 six- and seven-year olds — the Key Stage 1 SPAG — was canceled when it was found that the exam and its answers had been posted online three months beforehand.
Pearson insisted that the latest test had not been compromised, so all 600,000 test-takers proceeded to sit for the exam as scheduled.
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, which has been highly-critical of Department policy and leaders, used the leak as an example of what she and her organisation see as perpetual failure:
“After months of confusion and mismanagement, they mark the dismal culmination of a dreadful year for primary pupils and their teachers. They constitute an experience which must never be repeated; those who have engineered it must be held to account.”
The Guardian’s Richard Adams and Sally Weale write that it is conceivable that the exam content, which included words that pupils would need to spell, could have been accessed and distributed unfairly. Both Pearson and the Department insist that didn’t happen. They refer to the debacle as “fresh humiliation” for the Department and government.
Gibb vowed to MPs that the Department would hunt down the ‘rogue marker’ and hold him or her fully accountable for the potential breach:
“This is clearly a mistake, which should not have been possible. I have asked that all records should be examined and all information interrogated, so that the culprit who leaked this sensitive information can be identified.”
Warwick Mansell, the author of “Education By Numbers: The Tyranny of Testing”, writes in The Independent that 11-year olds are in tears over a testing process that “does not care very much about them,” and that a full-scale review of testing is “long overdue.”