SATs

SATs 2024: Schools face results ‘queue’ system

Leaders face 'enduring same frustrations as music fans struggling to get concert tickets', says union

Leaders face 'enduring same frustrations as music fans struggling to get concert tickets', says union

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Primary school leaders face being held in a queue and given wait times to access their key stage 2 SATs results next month, like “music fans struggling to get hold of sought-after concert tickets”.

Schools have been told this week that demand to access the Primary Assessment Gateway website will be “high” again this year.

Leaders had been left frustrated in recent years after the website to access results crashed.

But under a new system, primary leaders “may be held in a queue for a short time when signing in” on July 9.

They will get “real-time updates and estimates of [the] wait time until you have full access to the PAG”, a bulletin from the Standards and Testing Agency added. 

The STA said it hoped the change would “improve your experience”, and it will evaluate the approach afterwards.

‘Like music fans struggling for tickets’

But Sarah Hannafin, head of policy at NAHT school leaders’ union, said “we have little confidence this proposed queueing system will help”.

“Instead of addressing the issues with system capacity so school leaders can easily access results at the time of their choosing, it appears to expect them to endure the same kind of frustrations faced by music fans struggling to get hold of sought-after concert tickets.

“They have enough on their plate without being kept waiting in long online queues.”

In 2022, the first year outsourcing giant Capita ran the process under a £107 million contract, the website crashed on results day.

It was one of a series of failings the company was rapped for. Despite “robust” tests, some leaders were met with error messages when trying to log on last year too.

A Teacher Tapp survey of 950 teachers found 54 per cent were unable to log in to access SATs results. But 41 per cent said they had no issues.

The Department for Education said last year the “vast majority” of schools were able to log in and get results by 10.30am. Results are released at 7.30am.

But after feedback, they wanted to make “the process better still this year”.

Change ‘should reduce demand’

After exploring “different options”, this approach “should reduce demand” on the website “and in turn mean fewer delays”.

A Capita spokesperson said the new queuing system aims to “make the return of results simpler and easier, and we will welcome feedback on this process”.

“We know people will be eager to get their results. To help manage demand, we ask that schools don’t download multiple times during the peak of the first few hours on return of results day.”

But Hannafin said the union had raised concerns about the queue proposals and are “extremely disappointed” the feedback has “not been heeded”. 

“The government has made the stakes so high for schools when it comes to these tests, so the least schools should expect is that the process for accessing results should be simple and stress-free.”

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.

The £128 million contract to run SATs from September 2025 has since been won by Pearson.

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