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Wednesday, 28 September 2011 21:26

Medway Test Shambles

There is no doubt that the planning and operation of the Medway Tests at the Rainham School for Girls and Chatham Grammar School for Boys  was a shambles and the problems should never have occurred. Details are explained in the news item elsewhere in this website. Last year I was involved in a similar controversy at the Chatham Grammar School for Boys centre, which resulted in the Ombudsman and Medway Council agreeing on the faults and the Council promising to do better for 2011. In fact, the quality of provision at these two sites is, in my judgment, considerably worse......

In the first instance I found it difficult to believe that, after the failure in 2010, Medway Council wouldn't try harder this year. Then when I discovered the level of incompetence and it kept unravelling, I found it almost incredible. However, it has happened and if Medway had put its hands up to the faults, we would have had a major row as last year and then all would have faded away as a bad memory.

On the contrary, Medway Council has decided to go on the offensive and issued a statement alleging that the problems at Rainham had arisen because parents could not find the exam hall. Then thoughtfully they delayed the start ( by 50 minutes!) to allow parents to find their way in. What rubbish. There are so many accounts of lengthy queues because the council only provided one registration desk which had an ineffective method of checking children in. Parents had no problems in spotting the long queue, so they did know where to go!  How did the Council think they could get away with this ridiculous excuse by blaming the problem on parents' inability to find the entrance. I have also listed many other complaints which reveal nothing but incompetence by the Authority. These included the failure of Medway Council to notice there were only three boys toilets (it was a girls school!), although it is reported that of the ten girls' cubicles only five were operational. Some children spent all of their two breaks queueing for the toilet. 

The Council statement for Chatham was no better. They claim that before the test started, invigilators discovered that the inside of the test paper did not contain instructions (here, for instructions read 'question set'). They were then able to distribute the full question paper, so that children had the full time for the paper and breaks and were not disadvantaged. Again there is plentiful testimony that the test was started and that after a while a boy tried to ask what to do as there were no instructions. His story was dismissed and it was not until several others asked the question that invigilators conceded there was a problem. They didn't just distribute the question, they had to telephone back to Chatham and ask for instruction before  they were able to get hold of the full question paper and restart the test.

In both cases, the Council claim that children were not disadvantaged in any way, although any intelligent person can surely see otherwise. 

My sense is that some parents have almost put these failures behind them and moved on to what is the greater issue that they consider the Council is lying. Is it that those drawing up the statement have been misinformed or are these actions deliberate? Whatever, parents and their children have lost all confidence in the Council to tell the truth, children have learned a valuable lesson not to believe those in authority, and Medway Council's motto or promise of "Serving You" should perhaps be replaced. 

Medway Council has subsequently further inflamed the situation by statements on Radio Kent and BBC South East reiterating the falsehoods. The Kent Messenger blog on the subject leaves one in no doubt that anger levels are rising, parents are complaining to the Council, to councillors who take ultimate responsibility, to Members of Parliament and to the Secretary of State. 

I find Medway Council's continued refusal to acknowledge the facts and to try and impose their own story, an astonishing stance for a Local Authority to take, and must confess I cannot see how they can now extract themselves. One could just see it as a fascinating drama, but that omits the children who have spent long hours preparing for this assessment in the expectation they would be able to do themselves justice, those who could not cope with the stresses caused by Medway Council and will carry the scars into the future, and perhaps above all these the complete breakdown in trust in yet another of our elected bodies.   One final thought. What do the primary school headteachers who have nurtured their children for so many years  think of all this. Are there any brave enough to speak out?

Last modified on Sunday, 06 March 2016 05:59

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