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Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Exams body gets it right - almost
Pupils at Trinity Academy in Edinburgh
The SQA hopes for celebration this year
Scotland's exam results have been delivered to secondary school pupils with no apparent repeat of last year's debacle.

However, there was embarrassment among officials at the Scottish Qualifications Authority when it gave out wrong information about the pass rate for this year's Higher exams.

SQA bosses and the Education Minister Jack McConnell focused on celebrating this year's passes and were clearly hoping that the exams body's failure would now be confined to history.

But the statistical error on Tuesday morning merely fanned opposition party calls for further reform of the exams system.

SQA Chief Executive Bill Morton said it was important to reflect on the pupils' academic achievements.

Bill Morton
Bill Morton: Focus on achievements

"I think it would be good to focus on celebrating the achievements of the candidates, maybe that isn't something we seem to be too good at doing," he said.

"But I think that is what needs to be done and I think the statistics prove that the candidates in the education system have done very well this year and that as far as I'm concerned is good."

Mr McConnell described the mistake as a "minor issue" completely unrelated to the exam results themselves.

He said: "They (the SQA) made a mistake last night, I am pleased that they have corrected it, and we should be celebrating the success of young people in Scotland and their teachers."

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell: Mistake was a minor issue

But politicians were less than charitable when asked to comment on the SQA's mistake of announcing a 7% increase in the Higher pass rate this year, when it was only 1.3%.

The Scottish National Party's education spokesman Mike Russell MSP said he was "horrified" by the exam body's latest blunder, and argued that the SQA simply "could not handle data".

Scottish Conservative Brian Monteith was just as damning, he said: "It's a severe embarrassment not just to the SQA but to the minister himself who tried so hard to explain it.

'Sevenfold increase'

"I'm not worried about their embarrassment, I'm more worried about the deeper message it suggests.

"Because if the minister can say in the morning that we should have an increase because the right people are sitting the right exams, and then we find out by lunchtime that the increase is more or less the same that we get every year, then it suggests the Higher Still exams have not come out the way we wanted."

Dr Brian Boyd, an expert in statistics from Strathclyde University, said that a 7% increase in one year would have been surprising.

He said: "In a sense the examination system has not changed other than in the names of examinations and so on.

"So unless something really dramatic has happened in schools or at the SQA, we would certainly not expect a sevenfold increase in one year."

The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Most exam results came in the post on time"
Aileen Clarke reports
"The SQA had got its sums wrong."
Education reporter Martha Fairlie
"There have not been the kind of problems there were last year."

Go to BBC Student EssentialsExam results?
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See also:

14 Aug 01 | Scotland
Exams body gets its sums wrong
14 Aug 01 | Talking Point
Has the Scottish exams body passed?
13 Aug 01 | Scotland
Scottish results arrive early
12 Aug 01 | Scotland
Exams boss answers his critics
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
SQA bill could top 11m
09 Aug 01 | Education
'Distorted' exam results warning
21 May 01 | Education
Students' worries over new exams
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