Policy, Latent Error and Systemic Examination Failures - Politicians and civil servants are very much involved in examination developments in many countries. Policy development and implementation is notoriously difficult to unpick in terms of decision-making, roles and responsibilities. Nonetheless, three systemic examination failures are used to illustrate the problems caused by the policy context – in Scotland 2000, New Zealand 2004 and England 2008. Taking these cases and the literature together, it is argued that features of the policy environment conspire to generate latent errors: 1) evolving policy and competing perspectives; 2) lack of role clarity and diffusion of responsibility and 3) timeframe slippage. Human error theory indicates that to try to reduce errors we must understand their fundamental causes and that these usually run deeper than the first stories that are told. Understanding the full reasons for particular systemic examination errors is difficult because politics is slippery, and many perspectives have to be sifted.
Keywords: Assessment, system, management, politics, policy