Belfast Telegraph

Schools computer tests still plagued by IT fault

By Lindsay Fergus

An IT glitch that has led to more than 150 primary schools reporting problems with the new literacy and numeracy computer- based assessments has still not been resolved two weeks on.

Northgate, the firm that runs the schools C2K computer network has so far been unable to identify the fault that has led to log-in difficulties, connectivity issues and computers freezing as pupils do the Northern Ireland Literacy Assessment (Nila) and Northern Ireland Numeracy Assessment (Nina).

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), which oversees the diagnostic tests, has now set up a special helpline for schools affected by the ongoing problems.

A spokesman said: “The problem has not yet been identified. Based on the information provided to date, it is appears that the difficulties are related to system and network issues.

“CCEA and the assessment providers continue to work very closely with C2K and Northgate to investigate the problems as a matter of urgency and to determine the cause of these issues.”

Both Tribal Education and Rising Stars companies — which are responsible for the Nila and Nina software — have stated that the fault does not lie with them.

“All our investigations indicate that our servers continue to function efficiently.

“We are continuing to help C2K and CCEA as they investigate their network issues by providing them with data as required,” a Rising Stars spokeswoman said.

The Education Minister has given principals permission to postpone the assessments until the matter is resolved.

He has written to schools that are required by law to carry out the tests in the autumn term and report the results to parents.

In the letter, John O’Dowd (left) says that he has “instructed all of those involved to make every effort to overcome these issues” adding that he knows “such difficulties will only increase the pressure on teachers (and pupils) in what is already a very challenging year”.

Schools have been advised to “stop the assessments” if the glitches are interfering with teachers’ work or causing distress to pupils.

So far 159 schools have contacted CCEA to report technical issues with the new assessments, which were introduced in September.

However, around half of the 860 primary schools registered for the tests have completed them.

Figures show 30,631 pupils from 455 schools have completed Nila and 28,960 pupils from 429 schools have completed Nina.

Factfile

  • A dedicated CCEA helpdesk for computer-based assessment is available to schools on 028 9026 1274. CCEA and C2K have also provided a technical checklist for schools, on nicurriculum.org.uk, before they begin the assessments.
  • Schools still experiencing issues should contact the C2K helpdesk urgently on 0870 601 1666 and notify them of the difficulties experienced.

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