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Maladministration investigations

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Members have raised concerns about the resolution time frames for maladministration investigations and NAHT has discussed these with the Standards and Testing Agency (STA). We have made clear to them that members involved in such investigations need regular and clear communication throughout the process and the investigation to be resolved as quickly as possible. However, it is important for all allegations to be investigated properly and consistently.

STA has confirmed that it is not possible to put a time frame on how long an investigation will take to resolve due to the varying nature of each allegation. The published maladministration procedures advise that "it may take several months to reach a final decision on an investigation". STA has provided a summarised version of the full maladministration investigation procedures.   

One important and welcome change to the 2019 maladministration investigation procedures is the introduction of a formal opportunity for schools under investigation to provide a written response to the allegation and the evidence the investigator holds. 

NAHT will continue to engage with STA to improve these processes for schools.

A summary: how maladministration is investigated

The STA's role is to safeguard the integrity of the assessments. We do not apportion blame for any alleged maladministration. Decisions can be based on doubt.

Processing allegations
Allegations are received from a number of sources. In 2017, the majority of investigations were self-reported by schools (157) and local authorities (126). Each allegation is logged and is assigned to an investigator.

Investigating allegations

School visits
Investigators often work very closely with local authorities (LAs) during maladministration investigations. LAs may be asked to undertake school visits on our behalf – to speak to school staff and gather information to help inform the investigation. Guidance is published on gov.uk to enable LAs to undertake these visits consistently.

After the school visit, the LA will produce a report that details the information and evidence gathered during this visit. This becomes STA's property. A copy of this report is shared with the school for their records. If individual responses are sensitive, or if individuals have 'whistle-blown' – the report will be redacted to protect identities.

Analysis of KS2 test scripts/results
The investigator may review the completed KS2 test scripts/results to inform the investigation. It can take a considerable amount of time to review the scripts, and to write-up the findings.

Making representations
The 2019 maladministration investigation procedures are currently being redrafted. The main amendment to these is the introduction of a formal opportunity for schools under investigation to provide a written response to the allegation and the evidence the investigator holds. 

Making decisions
It may take several months to reach a final decision on an investigation. The length of an investigation will depend on: the nature of the allegation; the complexity of the case; the availability of information relevant to a case; the timing of when the allegation was reported.

At a case decision meeting, the investigator will share all case evidence (including any representations provided by the school) and will make a recommendation of action. The investigator is not involved in the decision-making (the decision-maker is a senior manager at STA). Once the decision has been made, the investigator will contact the school directly to inform them of the investigation outcome. The decision is final and there is no right of appeal. Decisions to annul are not made lightly. In 2017, 16.7% of all KS2 investigations resulted in an amendment or annulment of KS2 data. 

First published 21 May 2019