‘Rogue marker’ blamed for attempted SATs leak

The government has blamed a “rogue marker” for attempting to leak a key stage 2 SATs test after a copy of the exam paper was apparently sent to a journalist last night.

Schools minister Nick Gibb is also looking to “seek redress” from the exam board after today’s spelling and grammar tests were erroneously uploaded onto a secure site last night, for a period of about four hours.

Gibb has launched a dual investigation into how the materials were erroneously shared with markers before the exam, and who passed them onto the press.

Meanwhile, the tests were due to go ahead as planned today, as the content had not been leaked in the public domain, nor published by the journalist who was sent its content.

Pearson, the exam board responsible for the breach, stressed that the papers were uploaded to a secure site, accessible only to markers – all of whom were contractually obliged not to share sensitive information.

Gibb told MPs this morning he has charged the exam board with undertaking a “full investigation” into the breach, which he said would examine how the paper came to be uploaded in the first place and would also look at records so the “culprit can be identified”.

A DfE source said: “While the test doesn’t appear to have leaked into the public domain and can go ahead, a rogue marker did attempt to leak the test’s contents.

“It is clear there is now an active campaign by those people opposed to our reforms to undermine these tests and our attempts to raise standards.”

Pearson has confirmed the spelling, punctuation and grammar test was mistakenly uploaded to a password-protected portal, which allows markers access only to tests they have been contracted to mark.

It was accessed by 93 markers between the time it was uploaded – about 5pm –  and 9:01pm, when the test was taken down after Pearson was alerted of the error.

Pearson said it was normal to release papers early to senior markers and team leaders, who had received the documents several days ago.

However, the paper was shared erroneously last night with all markers due to mark the test in question. These markers – most of whom are working teachers – would not normally have access until the first sitting of the exam had taken place, which in this case was at 9am today.

Speaking in the Commons this morning, Gibb said that once he had the results of the investigation, he would “explore the full range of options available to the Department, and this includes looking at contractual and other routes to seek redress.”

A spokesperson for Pearson said: “We apologise to schools, teachers, parents and pupils for this error at this sensitive time. We are conducting an investigation to make sure it cannot happen again. As part of this investigation we will seek to find out which individual passed this information into the public domain, in breach of their commitments to us and their fellow markers.”

Ministers have asked Pearson to conduct an investigation into two issues.

Mr Gibb said: “First, how did the material come to be uploaded onto the secure site in error? This was clearly a mistake which should not have been possible.

“Second, I have asked that all records are examined and all information interrogated so that the culprit who leaked this sensitive information can be identified.”

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  1. Tony Parkin

    Er, no Nick Gibb. If ‘Rogue Marker’ had wanted to sabotage or undermine your test regime they (a) wouldn’t already have been an accredited marker (biting the hand that feeds?) and (b) wouldn’t have just sent the exam to one reputable education journalist to verify that the cockup had taken place. S/he would have broadcast it across social media anonymously to ensure the tests had to be cancelled.
    You are confusing whistle-blowing with sabotage and conspiracy. Rogue Marker has proved that between the DfE and Pearson there has been yet another cockup and maladministration. If s/he hadn’t sent the copy to aforesaid journalist we would never have even known about this latest blunder. So less aggression, and more contrition, please.

    • Gibb has built a straw man by claiming deliberate sabotage by a ‘rogue marker’ and then using this to put forward a conspiracy theory whereby all those who oppose the tests, however valid and well-argued their opposition, are blackened and accused of trying to undermine the government’s strategy to raise standards.
      This is far easier (and would delight sections of the media) than addressing concerns that frequent, mandatory summative testing in England is excessive and has no educational value. Neither does he have to bother about the total lack of international evidence which links such a testing regime with raised performance.

  2. Saw the test online last night – they’ve raised the bar so high to ensure the children can’t reach. What is it with the sicko Tories and children?

  3. Victoria Jaquiss

    “It is clear there is now an active campaign by those people opposed to our reforms to undermine these tests and our attempts to raise standards.”

    Is this a campaign I can join?

  4. Instead of dreaming up new criteria for underperforming councils, maybe the DfE should take a long, hard look at its desperately poor performance which is worsening by the day. Following their own perverse logic, they’re ripe to be taken over by a sponsor government department, preferably from the USA. I’m sure the CIA isn’t that busy these days, now the world is fully at peace.