North's exams board apologises for wrong test scores

Children take the assessment using computers in schools

THE north's exams board has apologised after seven out of every 10 primary school children who took computer-based maths tests received the wrong scores.

About 17,000 out of 24,000 pupils who sat the Northern Ireland Numeracy Assessment (NINA) tests received lower scores than they actually achieved.

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) has apologised unreservedly.

CCEA said the error had been rectified and correct scores released.

Teachers said, however, that the error had already affected a large number of pupils.

After testing, many schools analyse scores and teachers then meet parents of children whose results appear to be a concern. Some pupils can be moved learning groups on the basis of assessment performance.

In 2013, schools were told they no longer had to use NINA after the tests were hampered by technical glitches. More than 200 schools reported difficulties at that time and principals criticised them as "pointless" and not fit for purpose.

Schools now elect to use NINA and they are taken by children in years 4-7 throughout the autumn term. Just 267 of 809 primary schools used NINA in 2016 and 24,076 children took the assessment.

Children take NINA using computers in schools, their responses are marked electronically and calculations are carried out to produce scores and reports.

CCEA said a third party supplier of the tests was responsible for the error.

Chief executive Justin Edwards said CCEA noted that the outcomes provided demonstrated lower than expected scores and took immediate action.

"CCEA asked for a detailed review of the assessments and systems. We were provided assurances that the assessments were performing as designed. Not satisfied, we continued to raise queries with the provider, until it was reported that they had identified an error within their systems. It was confirmed that the error was in the software used to calculate final scores for a number of children taking the assessment," Mr Edwards said.

"CCEA is disappointed that the quality of service has fallen short of expectations. We apologise unreservedly for any inconvenience or distress this error has caused."

Education minister Peter Weir said he was "very disappointed".

"I will want CCEA to explore what actions it can take and what penalties should be considered in respect of the relevant supplier to ensure that such occurrences do not happen again," he said.

"I am currently considering the future of CBA Assessment policy and will make a decision on the future of CBA in the new year."

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