Australian steps down as Britain’s exams chief

RESIGNED: Ken BostonONE of Britain’s most highly paid and powerful public servants, the former NSW education chief Ken Boston, has resigned his £328,000 ($873,000)-a-year post after a chaotic round of national curriculum tests.
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Dr Boston, who began his career as a teacher in Victoria and was in his sixth year at the helm of the British schools testing watchdog, announced that he believed in public officials "taking responsibility when things go wrong".

Thousands of British children aged 11 and 14 received late – or incorrect – Standard Assessment Test results this year after the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority outsourced their administration to an American company, ETS, which signed a £156 million contract for the job. The British Government sacked the company in August.

Known as SATs, the tests are given at the end of years 2, 6 and 9 and are designed to measure children’s progress in comparison with peers born in the same month. The mess led the Government to drop the tests for 14-year-olds and there has been debate about scrapping the tests for 11-year-olds.

An inquiry by Lord Sutherland was launched into the disastrous round of SATs three months ago and is widely predicted to contain serious criticisms of the authority. The report is due to be handed down in London tomorrow.

Dr Boston, 65, was instrumental in delivering many reforms to the NSW education system during the early 1990s under Dr Terry Metherell. He has headed the British authority since 2002.

He said at the weekend that the performance of ETS had been "quite unacceptable" and repeated an apology issued to the 1.2 million students who took the tests and their teachers at the end of the summer term in Britain.

Criticism of Dr Boston has been tough since the disastrous results and he has come under pressure about his salary package, which includes the use of a £1 million apartment in London’s fashionable Chelsea district as well as six business-class flights a year back to Australia. London newspapers have also made an issue of his ownership of a yacht in Sydney.

Dr Boston said in his statement: "I have reflected since the summer on the delivery failure and on the difficulties associated with key stage testing.

"I have always believed in public bodies and public officials taking responsibility when things go wrong. In the light of that reflection and that belief, and in view of the challenges facing the QCA in the coming year, I believe it would be in the authority’s interests to find new leadership."

It is not known whether Dr Boston’s resignation has been considered or accepted by the authority’s board. His contract is due to expire early next year.

Dr John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described Dr Boston’s resignation as a "tragedy" and praised the work he had done at the authority.