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Reports of incorrect and missing marks shaking confidence in SATs, say school leaders, as government refuses to reveal the scale of the issues

School leaders’ union NAHT, who represent leaders in the majority of primary schools in England, have raised their deep concerns about the management of end of primary school SATs this year, after a growing number of complaints regarding missing – and even incorrectly allocated – marks for pupils.

Following numerous complaints from members, and reports on social media last week from schools who had not received marks for some pupils, NAHT have raised their concerns about the potential problems with the Department for Education and the Standards and Testing Agency, but have been given no clear answer as to the scale of the issue.

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “As things stand, the government is unable to tell us just how many children have been given incorrect marks for their SATs this year, and how many papers have gone missing.

“This is a deeply worrying position to be in – if the government is unable to identify the scale of the problem, how can leaders have confidence that they will be able to fix it?”

NAHT has been contacted by schools that have not only been told that some completed SATs papers have gone missing, and therefore their pupils will not be given any result, they have also realised that, in some instances, marks have been assigned to the wrong students, meaning some of the results given are incorrect.

Mr Whiteman continued: “It is unacceptable for the answer to the government’s failed SATs delivery to be for children not to be given any marks at all for their work. Parents will understandably be outraged by that.

“And for schools to then find, on closer investigation, that some of the marks they have been given are incorrect, hints at complete chaos. It should not be up to schools to have to spend hours double checking everything they’ve been told.

“The delivery of these tests has been beset with problems from start to finish. We need an immediate investigation into what has gone wrong, and the government must take urgent action to fix it.”

Last week, a poll by Teacher Tapp suggested that 20 per cent of primary teachers had KS2 SATs papers with marks missing. NAHT has since raised further concerns with the STA about marks being incorrect as well.

This comes after huge frustration on results day as the ‘primary assessment gateway’ website delivering the results – outsourced by the DfE to delivery partner Capita – crashed, resulting in hours of delays accessing results.

Mr Whiteman concluded: “If schools are to obliged to spend the time implementing these tests, the least parents and children should be able to expect is a system that operates well. For a government that prides itself on efficient delivery, this is the latest in a long line of failures and mismanagements when it comes to exams and assessments, and it simply isn’t good enough.

“School staff all play their part, take it seriously and do exactly what is expected – and the penalties for mistakes are severe. We should be able to expect the same standards from government.

“This needs to be put right urgently, and the government needs to listen to school leaders on what has gone wrong so that it does not happen again.”

First published 12 July 2022