Government asks Capita for cash back over cancelled SATs

SATs capita

The government is in talks over its £109 million contract with outsourcing firm Capita to manage primary school tests to see if it can get a reduction following the cancellation of SATs this year.

Under a six-year contract worth just over £18 million a year, Capita manages the administration, processing and support for all primary school national curriculum assessment tests on behalf of the Standards and Testing Agency.

That includes printing, distributing and collating over nine million SATs papers and the phonics screening check each year, as well as administering the marking of four million key stage 2 tests until 2024.

But, with assessments cancelled again this summer, questions have been asked over whether Capita will still get paid despite not having to provide the services.

Asked about it this week, the Department for Education said that Capita and the STA were “in discussion with respect to the impact of the cancellation of the 2021 test cycle and any resulting impact on payment”.

Schools Week asked whether there were any contingencies within the contract for such scenarios to avoid payment, but the department said there was nothing further to add while discussions are ongoing.

Capita would only say that it was working through the implications of the cancellation of SATs.

DfE wrote off £2.7m for shredded SATs papers in 2020

Last year, the government wrote off £2.7 million as a “constructive loss” after it had to shred papers for the cancelled tests.

The STA, an executive agency of DfE, said it was concerned about the potential degradation of the papers as well as the costs of storing them for later use.

The government also paid £55,000 to have the papers shredded by Restore Datashred. The cash was paid by the STA, on top of the contract payments to Capita.

Schools Week understands that no SATs papers were printed this academic year, so there have been no shredding costs.

In a normal year, Capita would print, distribute and collate test papers annually for key stage 1 and key stage 2 tests, and the phonics screening check.

Schools were asked to administer a phonics screening check for year 2 pupils last autumn, after the June test was missed because of coronavirus. It is not clear if this will happen this autumn.

The services provided by Capita were previously delivered through different contracts. As Schools Week revealed in 2019, the STA paid out £3m to education giant Pearson to settle a dispute over the Capita contract.

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  1. Janet Downs

    Sats should be cancelled permanently. They serve no educational value and distort the curriculum. The £109m annual cost would be better spent elsewhere.