Children, Schools and Families: Press Notice

23 July 2009


Exam bodies must have more independence and freedom to make key decisions, concludes a report by the Children, Schools and Families Committee. It also says Government interference increased the likelihood that the delivery of National Curriculum test results in 2008 would fail.

Micro-management by the Department (DCSF) placed undue constraints on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and led to confusion about the arrangements for delivery of the results.

The Government must adopt a far less prescriptive approach when issuing instructions to the new Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency. Top officials of Government agencies must also be prepared to challenge Government if they are being asked to achieve the impossible.

The report expresses serious concerns about the role of DCSF observers. Whilst they may have a legitimate role within QCA, observers should never exert undue influence over public bodies' decision-making. The presence of observers on the board of Ofqual, the independent regulator, is totally unacceptable; Ofqual's independence should be beyond question.

The Committee reiterates its concerns about single-level tests. It believes new tests should not be introduced hastily. Serious challenges remain and the Government must ensure logistical arrangements are robust.

The Chairman of the Committee, Barry Sheerman MP, said: "There is no question that events in the summer of 2008 were incredibly disruptive for a significant minority of pupils, parents and teachers. Whilst we have publicly endorsed Lord Sutherland's report and his recommendations, our report focuses on the role of the Department in the lead up to the delayed test results.

"Our Committee is in a unique position to assess the failings of the 2008 testing cycle. We took evidence from all the relevant major parties and acted swiftly to ensure information went on public record as soon as possible.

"We have identified significant flaws in the Department's management of its relationship with QCA. We urge the Government to do everything possible now to ensure that this summer the same mistakes are not repeated. We intend to monitor closely the work of Ofqual to make certain its independence as a regulator is beyond doubt."