§ Jacqui Smith
The qualifying marks for Level 4 of the Key Stage 2 English SATs in the last three years were 1999–48 marks, 1998–51 marks and 1997–52 marks.
The level thresholds are the number of marks needed to achieve a specific level in the National Curriculum tests at Key Stages 2 and 3. The level setting procedures are the final stage of the test development process. The level-setting exercise is in two stages and draws on statistical data, from pre-testing and from a sample of live tests, and expert judgments made by test developers, teachers and markers concerning the difficulty of the test and the quality of pupils answers.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) is responsible for setting and maintaining the standards in the tests, and the level thresholds are designed to ensure that standards remain constant from year to year. For this reason the thresholds do not normally remain the same each year but change in response to the relative difficulty of the tests. They have changed in every year since the tests started in 1995.
In view of debate over the level thresholds this year, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment established an independent panel, with cross-party representation nominated by the shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment and the Liberal Democrats' education spokesman.
The independent panel reported their findings in July. The panel was convinced that the concerns about the arrangements for setting, and maintaining the standards of the tests were without foundation. It was their view that the current method of setting standards for the National 745W Curriculum tests appears to be the most rigorous standard-setting procedure in use in any educational tests anywhere in the country and that our system of national tests is well in advance of many, if not all, of our international counterparts.