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The BBC's Emma Simpson
"Growing confusion in the Scottish education system"
 real 56k

Scottish First Minister Donald Dewar
"I've got great confidence in Sam, who is an absolutely first rate colleague and minister"
 real 28k

Scottish Education Minister Sam Galbraith
"For good political reasons ministers are not allowed to interfere"
 real 28k

Scottish Tory education spokesman Brian Monteith
"I think its for Sam Galbraith's conscience, for him to decide whether he did enough to avert what is an unmitigated disaster"
 real 28k

Monday, 14 August, 2000, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Dewar backs education minister
Donald Dewar and Sam Galbraith
Mr Dewar has backed his education minister
Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar has expressed confidence in Sam Galbraith, the education minister at the centre of the exams results controversy.

Mr Dewar returned to work less than four months after heart surgery and immediately faced demands from opposition politicians that Mr Galbraith should be sacked.

But Mr Dewar refused to bow to the pressure and described his Labour colleague as a "first-class minister".

Meanwhile, the Scottish Qualifications Authority has appointed an interim chief executive, Bill Morton, in place of Ron Tuck, who resigned at the weekend.

Mr Morton is currently chief executive of Scottish Enteprise Forth Valley and director of senior staff development for Scottish Enterprise as a whole.

I think it's for Sam Galbraith's conscience, for him to decide whether he did enough to avert what is an unmitigated disaster for examinations in Scotland

Brian Monteith MSP
"I greatly regret what has happened," said Mr Dewar, "but recognise that many people are working hard to put matters right.

"Can I emphasise my determination to ensure that lessons will be learnt and that there is no recurrence of these problems."

He also promised that no A-level student would be allowed to leapfrog university applicants from Scotland.

Independent consultants would report on the causes of the problem and a validation exercise involving the schools should be completed by Thursday evening.

Galbraith defiant

Earlier, Mr Galbraith said he would not be quitting because he was "not responsible for the Scottish Qualifications Authority and its functioning".

The controversy claimed the job of SQA chief executive Ron Tuck, who resigned at the weekend.

Mr Galbraith said he was first aware of likely problems in March and at that point his officials stepped in to offer the SQA help.

Pupil sitting exam
The exam tension continues for hundreds
He said: "This is a non-governmental, departmental body. It is an independent body, set-up at arms length from ministers to avoid political interference.

"For good political reasons ministers are not allowed to interfere.

"Despite that, however, we kept a close eye, because of my interests in the students and their output, but we did all we possibly could and were given repeated reassurances."

The minister, speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, said he wanted to wait for the outcome of the independent inquiry into the debacle.

'Unmitigated disaster'

But Brian Monteith, education spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said Mr Galbraith's position was becoming untenable.

He said: "The minister may have to pay the price because the buck actually stops, not with Ron Tuck I believe but with Sam Galbraith.

"I think it's for Sam Galbraith's conscience, for him to decide whether he did enough to avert what is an unmitigated disaster for examinations in Scotland.

Brian Monteith
Brian Monteith: "Worldwide reputation"
"It will ruin, I have to say, our worldwide reputation for the efficiency in which we run them."

He added: "It is important, I believe, that we get the evidence before the education committee and I have to say that if that evidence is damning we will then have to hang the minister out to dry."

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of Scotland's biggest teaching union, the EIS, has written to Mr Dewar, urging him to resolve "a crisis of confidence in the exam system of unprecedented proportions".

Mr Smith said candidates must be given "complete and accurate certification" as a priority.

There should also be a wider review of the Higher Still arrangements "with a view to simplication".

Scathing e-mails

Pupils and parents continue to e-mail their complaints to BBC News Online Scotland.

Ryan McGhee writes: "Every single candidate is owed a letter of apology from Ron Tuck, and Sam Galbraith shouldn't have to resign as he should be fired - for gross negligence."

The Labour Party in Scotland will surely feel the brunt of the public's anger at the next elections especially if Sam Galbraith remains in office

Brian Reavy
And Brian Reavy declared: "According to Sam Galbraith students and parents only think there are mistakes because we are too stupid to understand the certificates.

"When will Sam Galbraith admit the scale of the biggest crisis to ever affect Scottish education and accept executive responsibility for it?

"The Labour Party in Scotland will surely feel the brunt of the public's anger at the next elections especially if Sam Galbraith remains in office to insult the electorate further."

Admissions suspended

The SQA has said there is "no reason to assume that there are material flaws in either the results data or the underlying process which manage that data".

However, it has pledged to check all 147,000 candidates' certificates and has announced the suspension of the university admissions' system in Scotland until the end of next week.

The SQA said checks on priority cases would be completed by Thursday.

SQA logo
The SQA is responsible for issuing results
David Caldwell, director of Coshep, the higher education principals' body, conceded that the admissions process was facing great strain.

The checked Scottish results are expected to reach colleges and universities on Friday - the same day that English A-level results will be available.

Mr Caldwell said: "It will be very difficult for admissions officers, they are under a lot of pressure at this time of year anyway and this will certainly add to the pressure."

Meanwhile, a telephone helpline for worried pupils waiting to learn if they have secured a university went live on Monday morning.

The service has been set up by university admissions service Ucas following the Scottish exams fiasco.

The Ucas helpline can be contacted on 01242 227788. Queries can also be sent by email.

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See also:

14 Aug 00 | Scotland
Resignation calls fall on deaf ears
14 Aug 00 | Scotland
Dewar sets out his course
13 Aug 00 | Scotland
'Results safe' says exam body
12 Aug 00 | Scotland
Exams chief resigns
12 Aug 00 | Scotland
Galbraith urged to resign
11 Aug 00 | Scotland
Plea for parliament exams probe
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