The UK Department for Education (DfE) has been left shame-faced after someone accessed national primary school Standard Assessment Tests (SAT) exam answers on a secure test marker web portal and then uploaded them to the internet before attempting to share them with the media.
On Tuesday 10 May, hundreds of thousands of 10- and 11-year-old school children sat the Key Stage 2 spelling and grammar test, a crucial exam that provides secondary schools with information about the children who will be starting with them in September.
The test supplier Pearson mistakenly uploaded the answers to the test to a password-protected secure web portal for test markers, and an individual then downloaded the answers and leaked them onto the internet. Fortunately, the test was not compromised and it was sat by school children as usual.
While Pearson has accepted responsibility for the data breach, schools minister Nick Gibb told MPs in parliament that almost 100 people accessed the exam answers before they were taken offline, and he has vowed to track down the individual who leaked the answers and contacted a member of the media. The journalist in question chose not to publish the answers.
"This is clearly a mistake, which should not have been possible. I have asked that all records should be examined and all information interrogated, so that the culprit who leaked this sensitive information can be identified," Gibbs told MPs, according to The Guardian.
"This is a serious breach and I am determined to get to the bottom of how this error occurred."
Pearson said in a statement that only a small number of markers had access to the test answers, but that they were all contracted and thus were bound by confidentiality not to share any papers. The educational publisher is now investigating but says that it has no evidence that the content of the paper was compromised.
The DfE has condemned the data breach, saying that it was an "active campaign" to undermine the tests.
And although the Key Stage 2 SAT exam is sat by children in Year 6, the incident is the latest in the ongoing controversy over SAT exams, which has seen some parents pull their children out of school in protest against SATs being given to six and seven-year-olds in Year 2.
The parents involved in the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign believe that children are being overworked and that the British school system places far too great an importance on test results as opposed to inspiring children to want to learn and making sure that they are happy.