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Test reliability relates to how a test question is answered by children or pupils and how consistently it is interpreted in the way anticipated. This aspect of the test question performance is dealt with by means of pre-testing the questions--a process which occurs twice during the life-cycle of a test question. The Government are satisfied that the quality control procedures for the test development and the marking process is thorough and rigorous. This was reflected in the findings of the Rose Review, an independent cross-party panel set up last year to consider the test development and assessment arrangements at Key Stage 2. The data are not published
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as they form part of the overall process of judging how well a question performs--which takes into account other, judgmental factors.
Reliability in marking relates to the construction of the mark scheme and how markers interpret the answers to questions. Absolute reliability is achieved when any marker, trained in the use of a markscheme, marks a question and gives it the same mark as any other marker who may mark the same question. Marker training is intended to ensure that marker reliability is as high as possible. Data are collected from markers and analysed each year in relation to the degree of variation from absolute reliability which occurs. The data are used to manage the marking process and remove any markers which may not be performing satisfactorily. As the data relates to individual teachers, they remain confidential.
Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment how many end of Key Stage 2 English test papers were returned for a review of marking last year; and what proportion of these resulted in a change of National Curriculum level. 
Ms Estelle Morris: In 1999, 4,974 end of Key Stage 2 English papers were returned for a review of marking. This figure represents approximately 0.8 per cent. of the total number of English papers taken nationally.
Ms Hodge: We are committed to eliminating age discrimination from the Department's policies and practices in line with the "Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment", published in June 1999. We are conducting a full review of all our personnel procedures to ensure they are consistent with the standards set out in the code.
In addition, in line with our commitments to equality of opportunity, the Department already recruits and promotes people on the basis of their competence to do the job without reference to their age through full fair and open competitions; encourages all staff to take advantage
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of learning and development opportunities; and has given its staff greater flexibility to choose when they retire between the ages of 60 and 65.
As part of the Department's commitment to continuous improvement, we are currently carrying out a review of the way we ensure that equal opportunities issues, including age, are taken into account in the development of all our policies.
Mr. Wicks: The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) is currently working with the awarding bodies to develop advice on the list of approved GCSE titles to be offered from 2001. QCA is seeking the views of interested organisations before submitting final recommendations. No decisions have been reached at this stage. There is a wide range of vocationally-related qualifications in agriculture and horticulture already available, including GNVQs in land and environment. We shall ensure that there continues to be an appropriate range of qualifications in all three areas in the future for young people.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what was the staying-on rate for post-16 years education in respect of pupils from schools (a) with and (b) without sixth forms in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Wicks: The Department does not collect administrative data on 16-year-olds in education by the type of school attended the previous year. However, estimates of the proportion of 16-year-olds in full-time education in the Spring following Year 11, with a breakdown by school type, are available from the Youth Cohort Study. Estimates for the latest years are given in the following table.
|School without sixth form||64||65||62|
|School with sixth form||73||73||71|
(9) The figures do not include those studying part-time.
Youth Cohort Study, Cohorts 7, 8, 9
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment when he will publish the latest updated timetable for the transition plan for changes in delivery of post-16 years education. 
Mr. Wicks [holding answer 8 May 2000]: We have been working with partner organisations to update the National Transition Plan. The next version will reflect important announcements we made at the end of March on handling the staffing implications of "Learning to Succeed" and the second Funding Consultation
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Documents which are being issued this week. We intend to publish the next version of the Transition Plan within the next month.
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will list the 10 local education authorities with (a) the highest and (b) the lowest rate of pupils staying on for post-16 years education. 
Mr. Wicks: We are committed to a step change in participation and attainment rates for 16 and 17-year-olds. The Learning and Skills Bill sets out reforms in post-16 education and training which we believe will make a significant impact. We have announced details of the new Connexions Service which will provide advice, guidance, information and support service for all 13 to 19-year-olds, whatever their needs and circumstances. Five Connexions Service pilots were announced on 3 February 2000 evaluating various aspects of the new service.
The information requested on participation in education by LEA is contained in the following table. There are no data available on participation in Government Supported Training by LEA but there is evidence that higher rates of training by TEC areas compensate for low levels of full-time education.
|Kingston upon Thames||93|
|Bath and NE Somerset||87|
|City of Kingston upon Hull||52|
|Stoke on Trent||49|
Statistical Bulletin 14/99: Participation in education and training by young people aged 16 and 17 in each local area and region, England, 1993-94 to 1997-98
Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment (1) what proportion of candidates aged 18 years or under achieved three or more grade As at A-level in (a) sixth forms in independent schools, (b) sixth forms in maintained schools, (c) sixth form colleges and (d) other further education colleges in the most recent year for which figures are available; 
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(a) 17.9 in school sixth forms in the maintained and independent sectors--22.1 for independent schools and 16.6 for maintained schools
(b) 16.3 in sixth form colleges
(c) 9.7 in other further education colleges.
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