Andrew Lifford is a former secondary school teacher, teacher trainer and education researcher. He has worked at Portland School, Google, The Key, Researchers in Schools and Teach First. The views in this post do not represent the views of Edapt.

According to the Standards and Testing Agency (STA), last year 2,688 test results were annulled, the year before that the figure was 723.

There has also been a number of recent high profile stories, published in national and local news which suggest an increasing number of schools are tempted to take the risks for a more favourable position in the league tables.

I suspect the statistics from the STA are only the tip of the iceberg as these are only the schools which are actually caught and investigated.

What do examples of maladministration look like?

The STA explains maladministration can include:

  • Early opening of test papers
  • Pupils being over-aided by teachers
  • Changes being made to pupils’ test scripts
  • Inflation or deflation of teacher assessment (TA) judgements

Interestingly, the most common instance of maladministration last year involved ‘over-aiding’ pupils.

It’s probably the easiest way a teacher can feel they can make a small difference, especially when pressured to achieve results linked to appraisal and whole-school targets.

primary tests - How easy is it for schools to game the KS2 SATs?

It is worth bearing in mind, that the STA only investigated 2.9% of the total amount of schools participating in the KS2 SATs last year for maladministration issues.

It would be interesting to see how widespread the issue is considering there must be many cases which are never brought to attention?

How are the STA informed of potential maladministration cases?

Cases of alleged maladministration are reported to the STA from a number of difference sources, including:

  • School staff and governors
  • LA staff
  • Secondary schools
  • Monitoring visitors
  • Parents

Schools self-informing and teachers contacting the STA made up the biggest proportion of allegations. So it looks like there is an element of self-regulation where staff will flag issues, however many teachers might not feel confident enough to do so in fear of repercussions.

What are the consequences for pupils and teachers?

School staff can be subject to disciplinary action and can be referred to the Teaching Regulation Agency and issued with prohibition orders, essentially banning them from teaching for an extended period of time. Their professional careers and reputation would be severely impacted.

Pupils will be disappointed to not achieve their results, with whole cohort annulment occurring with no recourse for appeal for schools. In addition, pupils’ trust in teachers and schools as an institution will be negatively impacted.

Transition to secondary will prove to be more problematic and parents will be more suspicious of the validity of testing and future results.

exam cheating feat - How easy is it for schools to game the KS2 SATs?

In all lines of employment, (banking, auditing, sports, retail) there will be a small number of individuals looking at how to make marginal gains especially when put under significant amounts of pressure to perform. There are stringent test conditions in place for schools, however, it is extremely difficult to clamp down on across the board.

I’m sure that the number of maladministration cases will increase again this year. School staff should not feel they need to put in the position to try and bolster their results by dubious practices. The risks are far too high and the damage to the confidence of pupils and parents might be irreversible.

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