Capita loses £180m SATs contract to exam board Pearson

Schools faced ‘significant frustration’ during outsourcer’s first year, with thousands of papers going missing and wrong marks awarded

Schools faced ‘significant frustration’ during outsourcer’s first year, with thousands of papers going missing and wrong marks awarded

Outsourcing giant Capita will no longer manage SATs tests after exam board Pearson won the contract worth up to £180m.

A government review had found Capita’s first year overseeing the tests, in 2022, caused “significant frustration and inconvenience” to schools.

Exams regulator Ofqual had to step in after thousands of tests went missing, wrong marks were awarded and the helpline went into meltdown.

But in correspondence sent to schools today, seen by Schools Week, the Standards and Testing Agency said Pearson has been selected as the preferred supplier from September 2025.

A previous tender document said the contract could be worth up to £180 million over seven years.

Capital will still manage this year and next year’s SATs.

The STA said “all parties concerned will work hard to make this a positive experience for schools and local authorities”.

‘Lost on price’

Last year, Capita also lost its contract to administer the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) after 27 years to Indian IT company Tata Consultancy Services. It also withdrew from delivering the flagship early career framework. 

In an end of year report, Capita said losing the TPS and SATs contacts will “have a dampening impact on revenue growth”. They said both were “lost on price”. 

Capita won the £107 million contract in 2018, but Covid meant its first exams series was not run until 2022.

Schools Week investigations revealed problems that year included thousands of papers going missing, excessive helpline waiting times and markers locked out of online training.

The outsourcer’s fee was slashed by £1.3 million as a result. 

An Ofqual report for the 2023 series also found technical issues with marking and results, but much less severe than previously.

Capita said it was disappointed following a strong performance in 2023, when it had met or exceeded its targets. The firm said it put forward a “compelling, competitive” bid.

Pearson’s ‘strong track record’

Pearson previously marked SATs papers before Capita took over the contract, which also rolled up over services including printing and distributing the tests.

Schools Week revealed the STA paid £3 million to Pearson to settle a legal dispute over the contract changing hands.

Pearson said it will deliver the optional end of key stage 1 SATs, key stage 2 SATs, teacher assessments in English writing and science and the phonics screening check. 

This includes printing, distributing and marking papers and running the school helpline. 

Sharon Hague, Pearson’s school qualifications managing director, added the company has a “proven track record of delivering high-volume, quality assessment”. 

“We look forward to applying our experience and expertise to the delivery of primary school assessment and to supporting thousands of schools across England to deliver these important tests.”

The DfE said Pearson was selected as they scored best against the published criteria and demonstrated their capacity to deliver a high-quality service and value for money.

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