Schools

Lost SATs scandal: More than 2,000 results still missing

Exclusive: Schools Week understands 10 times more papers still missing than in usual year, as calls for probe grow

Exclusive: Schools Week understands 10 times more papers still missing than in usual year, as calls for probe grow

Exclusive

More than 2,000 SATs papers are still missing, leaving hundreds of schools without results for their pupils as the new school year starts.

New figures published by the Department for Education today reveal for the first time the scale of the scandal, with 10 times more papers going missing than in normal years.

In July, there was 3,339 test scripts missing across reading, maths and grammar, punctuation and spelling tests. This impacted 1,047 schools.

About 1,150 were found over the summer – but this still leaves 2,186 papers missing impacting 523 schools.

Schools Week understands that in previous years, the number of missing papers hovers around 200.

Headteachers called for an “immediate investigation” when the issues came to light earlier this summer.

The school leaders’ union NAHT union had “deep concerns” about the management of SATs this year – run by outsourcing giant Capita for the first time under a £107 million contract.

‘Simply unacceptable’

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said the process had been “grossly mishandled”.

“Now the government has finally come clean about the scale of the problems this year, we know that hundreds of pupils do not have results for the tests they sat, which is simply unacceptable. It also leaves many primary schools with incomplete results that could skew their data.

“Although this may be a small percentage of the number of papers overall, it still leaves hundreds of pupils without marks – pupils who are now entering secondary school without the end of primary results the government deems so important.”

DfE blamed this year’s “larger volumes” of missing data on “unexpected difficulties” during the “collecting and processing” of assessments.

Figures published today reveal that in previous years 100 per cent of SATs tests were available, however this year it dropped to 99.7 for grammar, punctuation and spelling tests. For maths it was 99.8 per cent and reading 99.9 per cent.

Pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and disadvantaged children were more likely to be missing spelling and maths tests than their counterparts.

In the key stage 2 attainment data, DfE said missing tests were excluded from all subjects on a national, regional and local authority level.

But for teacher assessments in writing and science, pupils with missing results are included in regional measures as “not meeting the expected standard”, with teachers urged to provide any outstanding assessments as soon as possible.

In 2019, 99.7 per cent of teacher assessments were included in the data, but this year it dropped to 99 per cent.

As of July 24, 4.5 per cent of pupils in special schools had writing and science teacher assessments missing, compared to 0.8 per cent of pupils in mainstream schools.

Pupils with SEN had 1.4 per cent of writing teacher assessments were missing, compared to 0.8 per cent of their counterparts without SEN.

‘We need a full investigation’

Whiteman added: “Schools are held to incredibly high standards when it comes to handling SATs papers; the threat of maladministration looms at every step in the process.

“The government must be held to the same standard. We need a full investigation into what went wrong this year, so that we can be absolutely assured it will not happen again.”

As revealed by Schools Week revealed, ministers launched a “lessons learned” probe into Capita’s first SATs series, after being besieged with problems.

This included markers being locked out of a webinar, Capita’s results service crashing and two-thirds of teachers hanging up after no-one answer the helpline phone.

A Capita spokesperson said the “overwhelming majority” of 3.8 million test scripts from 16,000 schools were marked. But following a “thorough investigation” around 0.05 per cent of the total have been recorded as lost or missing.

“We recognise that it is unacceptable for there to be delays in a result being received, or for any paper to be lost in the process of being scanned and marked. We have apologised directly to the affected schools and their pupils.”

A DfE spokesperson said it worked with Capita to make sure “they took every possible step to find missing papers over the summer”.

“Parents can be reassured there will be no impact on their children’s progress to secondary school, and we have put strong safeguards in place to avoid school-level results being misinterpreted.

“We will be using the coming months to make sure Capita has a robust plan in place that prevents these issues from recurring in future years.”

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