Third time unlucky for primary school tests

Sats protest Image copyright PA
Image caption Parents organised a protest against "over-testing" in primary schools

This has been an accident-prone year for primary school tests - and the amount of attention given to this latest leak is a reflection of a cumulative build-up of mistakes and controversy.

The day before hundreds of thousands of pupils were due to take part of their English Sats paper, it was mistakenly uploaded on to a website for test markers.

These markers, mostly teachers, could see the test for about four hours - and it is claimed one of these tried to leak it further.

It is not often that primary school tests are associated with sabotage, but the Department for Education linked this to a campaign to undermine the tests and warned of a "rogue marker".

Bad luck

Ministers might feel it is unfair to blame them - because the tests were being administered by Pearson.

But what will make the Department for Education feel more besieged is this is not the first such problem this year.

An English test for seven-year-olds had to be scrapped at short notice because the questions had been published online.

The baseline tests, for five-year-olds, also had to be ditched because the way they were structured made the results unreliable.

Bad luck is a dangerous quality for ministers.

Getting heckled

And to compound their difficulties, it follows Education Secretary Nicky Morgan's high-profile U-turn over forced academies.

She might feel she was dealt an unlucky set of cards on this too.

Having stuck loyally to the party line - getting heckled by heads and criticised by MPs on her own backbenches and saying there was "no reverse gear" - she then had to announce a hasty retreat.

The teachers' unions must be pinching themselves to see if all this has really happened.

Unexpected storms

At Easter, the conferences went through some rather ritual motions condemning compulsory academies and attacking Sats tests.

And then, within weeks, these policies have imploded before their eyes.

Labour must also be relishing the sight of education ministers suddenly beset by such unexpected storms.

For parents, this might all seem like an unappealing outbreak of party politics in a primary school playground.

For ministers, their challenge is to convince the public that school tests are not about political careers, but about improving the future chances of children.

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