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National Curriculum Tests

Education written question – answered on 20th July 2010.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what mechanism was used to establish threshold levels for standard assessment tests in 2009-10; and whether the industrial action by teaching unions had an effect on the threshold.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) was responsible for establishing level thresholds for the 2010 national curriculum tests. Lin Hinnigan, QCDA executive accounting officer, has written to my hon. Friend with the information on the mechanisms used to agree thresholds for this year's tests.

Letter from Lin Hinnigan, dated 15 July 2010:

I am writing in response to the Parliamentary Question you recently tabled regarding level setting National Curriculum Tests, as requested by the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb MP: "To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what mechanism was used to establish threshold levels for standard assessment tests in 2009-10; and whether the industrial action by teaching unions had an effect on the threshold."

The process of level setting for Key Stage 2 tests in English and mathematics 2010 was exactly the same as for previous years. The industrial action undertaken by teacher unions did not have any effect on how the process worked this year.

In terms of the process used to set levels, a range of procedures, both statistical and judgemental, are used to ensure the standards of performance required for the award of each level are maintained consistently from year to year. This includes extensive pre-testing of all test papers so that tests can be equated statistically from year to year. Since this equating is based on data obtained during pre-testing, loss of data due to fewer pupils taking the actual test would not have an impact on the process. Evidence is also obtained through a judgemental exercise, whereby a panel of senior markers scrutinise real pupils' test papers in order to identify the threshold where performance characterises that expected of pupils at each level.

QCDA then chairs a formal level setting meeting which takes place to weigh up both strands of evidence in order to recommend a final threshold for each level which is signed off by the QCDA accountable officer. This meeting is also observed by Ofqual, who have a role as the regulator to ensure that assessments give a reliable indication of achievement and indicate a consistent level of attainment.

I trust this information is useful. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

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