Balls ‘should apologise’ over exam chief row

By Alex Stevenson

The Conservatives have demanded Ed Balls apologise for giving misleading evidence relating to last summer’s Sats fiasco.

It follows controversial evidence to MPs yesterday from Ken Boston, the head of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), who resigned in December over the failure to deliver results in time to over one million children.

Dr Boston sought to set the record straight by describing a meeting claimed to have taken place on June 17th 2008 between himself, David Gee and schools minister Jim Knight as “fiction”.

Ministers subsequently admitted Dr Boston was not present at the meeting, despite insisting it took place in the Commons and in evidence to the children, schools and families select committee.

Now shadow children’s secretary Michael Gove has written to Mr Balls demanding an apology for misleading the Commons.

“Whenever a minister gives information to the House of Commons, one of its select committees or an independent inquiry that is subsequently challenged and called into doubt, it is usual protocol that he should come before the House and set the record straight by way of a personal statement,” he wrote.

“Given the tight deadline before the delivery of this summer’s Sats exams, I am sure you agree that it is important this matter is settled as soon as possible.”

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) has been at pains to point out errors made in giving evidence would not have influenced Lord Sutherland’s conclusions.

Yesterday a spokesman pointed out Lord Sutherland had restated the key finding of his report that there were “significant failures in the QCA”.

“He said that he had ‘ample scope and every opportunity to examine the processes, role and responsibilities of all the key players’, and this included the role of ministers,” a spokesperson said.

“Both the DSCF and the QCA have accepted Lord Sutherland’s findings and recommendations in full to ensure that lessons are learned and mistakes are not repeated.”

Dr Boston remains aggrieved, however. He told MPs yesterday: “What I resent is evidence against me being sexed up. to characterise me as something I am not.”

Mr Gove has asked the DCSF to publish details of all emails, telephone calls, letters and meetings Mr Knight and the QCA between March 1st and July 2nd 2008.