Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Balls' 'Sexed Up' Sats Cover Up

A tawdry trail of lies, deceit and cover-ups has been exposed, as the exam chief sacked for the Sats fiasco has rounded on schools secretary Balls and his side-kick minister, accusing them of misleading both parliament and the inquiry which whitewashed Balls part in the shambles.

The Orange Party had long suspected Balls of a cover-up over the Baby P scandal and the Sats cover-up, refusing to shoulder any of the blame. 

Already accused of 'running' a Number10 smear unit, the schools secretary has a knack of hiding behind the smokescreen of 'accountability and responsibility'.  Now his cover has been blown. 

The band of spinners tried to control the fall out from the summer Sats fiasco and shift the blame away from Balls. With some crafty footwork and shifty spin, the children's secretary managed to wriggle out of any responsibility.

Now in an explosive letter, Ken Boston, the sacked head of the QCA exams quango,  has rounded on Balls and his deputy Jim Knight accusing them of spin, smears and "deliberate falsehoods", saying evidence stacked up against him was "sexed up".

Ministers were let off the hook over the Sats shambles with a widely-leaked whitewash which laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of the government quangos and contractor. Nowhere did the report answer a simple question - what was Balls doing while the Sats fiasco was falling around his ears? 

As expected and highlighted by the Orange Party at the time, the Sutherland report, blamed the exam watchdog QCA and private contractor ETS Europe, under a tight remit drawn up by Balls, craftily crafted to get him off the hook. 

Now Boston has blown the cover, claiming the inquiry remit "protected the government from being brought to account for its role in the problems."

Disturbingly the former exam chief told a committee of MPs that accounts of his meetings with ministers were "false". Accusing ministers of putting a "protective fence" around themselves, he blasted ministers' version of what happened as "fiction".

In particular, he took issue with an account central to the Sutherland inquiry, where schools minister Knight had wrongly claimed Boston had been present at one meeting last June when the Sats tests were discussed - when he had not even been invited.

Significantly Boston also challenged the inquiry's finding - read out by Balls in the commons - that ministers had "usually pressed" him for answers about the Sats marking problems. "This too is fiction," he said.

Teachers, parents and children were left tearing their hair out, let down as the Sats fiasco unfurled. The least Balls should do now is to come to the house of commons to set the record straight. 

But with all the budget hype, this is a very good day to bury bad news. 

Here stands a cabinet minister once again accused of smear tactics, this time against a public official. If Balls has misled parliament then he has to come to the house, correct the record and apologise. If the allegations are borne out - he should face the music and quit. 

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