Ex-QCA boss still angry after Sats fiasco

By Alex Stevenson

The man blamed for last summer’s Sats fiasco has spoken out against the “sexed up” evidence used against him by the government.

Ken Boston, former chief executive of examining board Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), resigned in December over the failure to deliver over one million children’s Sats results on time.

In a letter written on April 15th to Barry Sheerman, chairman of the children, schools and families select committee, Mr Boston alleged that claims made by schools minister Jim Knight in evidence to Lord Sutherland’s inquiry into the failure were “fiction”.

Mr Boston, the man who since 2002 had been responsible for exams in England, stood by those claims again today.

“There is no fact to them and yet they were used against me,” he said. “I want an explanation for that.”

Mr Boston rejected Mr Knight’s claim that he was “complacent and disengaged” in a meeting on June 17th, saying he was not at the meeting. A further claim that ministers “usually pressed” Mr Boston on growing concerns in meetings with him was dismissed as “totally false”. He said he only met with ministers twice in 2008.

“I was managing an organisation which had a difficult task ahead of it. and failed,” Mr Boston added.

“What I resent is evidence against me being sexed up. to characterise me as something I am not.”

Mr Sheerman asked Mr Boston whether these were “the words of a bitter man who feels he has been wronged”.

Mr Boston admitted his greatest regret was his refusal to accept failure seemed likely.

He expressed frustration at the Department for Children, School and Families’ reluctance to switch to electronic marking, claiming that no results would have been late had this transition taken place.

And he said the eight-week period given to QCA to process the results created high margins of error.

Mr Boston added: “I was foolish enough to continue running an organisation, doing a high-wire act, when I knew it was deeply flawed and the only way to [have got it fixed] was to get ministerial approval several years before.”

Yesterday evening the DCSF released a statement responding to Mr Boston’s letter.

“Jim Knight wrote to Lord Sutherland and Barry Sheerman on February 9th 2009 explaining an error in the way the June 17th meeting had been described,” a spokesperson said.

“Lord Sutherland was clear in his response that this made no difference to his findings and stated that the ‘clarification does not substantially alter the points that were made’ and goes on to that he was ‘therefore satisfied that your [Jim Knight’s] clarification does not affect my findings’.”

“If Ken Boston believes a further correction is required then he should raise it with Lord Sutherland who carried out the independent inquiry.”

Lord Sutherland’s inquiry, published in December 2008, concluded that QCA had “failed its remit”.