Highlights of Michael Gove’s questioning of Ed Balls’ competence after the SATs fiasco.

Incompetence, year after year: "Under the American contractor ETS, there have been chronic delays in getting all papers marked, the marking itself has been flawed, with reports of teenagers and cocktail waitresses being approached to help meet deadlines, and papers of widely differing quality being given the same mark. The Secretary of State says that it is no worse than every year. Does not that just underline the incompetence at the heart of this Government when it comes to education?"

Someone needs to take responsibility: "The Secretary of State rightly acknowledges that this situation is unacceptable, but what parents and teachers want to know is whether he will take responsibility. He has consistently argued that responsibility for this affair rests in hands other than his—at arm’s length. But can he confirm that civil servants from his Department—specifically, the director general of schools—were there at the meeting when the contract was awarded to ETS? Can the Secretary of State tell us what, if anything, civil servants told him about that procurement process? Can he tell us what action, if any, he then took to ensure the safe delivery of testing?"

Marking has lost credibility: "As soon as ETS took up its contract, examiners started to register their concerns. The standardisation process, which ensures consistent marking, was flawed, with highly experienced markers being failed and other, much weaker candidates, being passed despite registering a worryingly high number of mistakes. Worse, the failsafe system to deal with bad marking—the borderline process which allows for papers to be remarked—was scrapped. Given the high number of complaints of inconsistent and error-strewn marking in this year’s tests, how can the Secretary of State have confidence in the quality of marking?"

Ed Balls has failed basic standards of competence: "We all await Lord Sutherland’s report with interest, but when the Secretary of State’s predecessor Estelle Morris ran into trouble with a marking fiasco, she commissioned a former chief inspector to issue an interim report within a week. Why is the Secretary of State not insisting on similar urgency even now? Is he afraid of the results? Has not his behaviour throughout this affair been characterised by indifference, high-handedness and inattention? Is it not the case that his Department failed to ensure that contracts had been awarded properly, failed to heed warning signs and failed to act quickly to avert a fiasco that every teacher in the land could see coming? Do not pupils, parents and teachers deserve better than a Secretary of State who fails the most basic test of all—competence in office?"

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