Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Has the Scottish exams body passed?
Scottish students have been receiving their much-awaited exam results.

It has been an anxious time for them and a tense period for the Scottish Qualifications Authority, which has been working to avoid a repeat of last year's results crisis.

Thousands of students received incomplete or inaccurate results in 2000 and many complained that they could not understand the certificates, which were redesigned to include data for the new Higher Still exams.

The SQA said it has been working hard to get things right but it still has to resolve about 1,350 exam cases this year. It has also revised the certificates to make them easier to understand.

And just hours after results were delivered this year, the SQA admitted to a significant error in the pass rate increase, cutting it from 7% to 1.3%.

But after last year's failure, has the SQA got it right for students in 2001?

This Talking Point is now closed. A selection of your comments are included below.

I believe that the results this year are a major improvement on last year and credit should be given for this. A minor statistic was incorrect and much debate over this ensued, missing the point that the SQA had made a major step in the right direction
Sandy Mackenzie, scotland

I disagree with the people who have been suggesting that Scotland takes on board the English system for exams. I think that the Scottish system is far superior in terms of content, as it allows pupils to specialise in five subjects, rather than three. This is good, as 16-year-olds rarely know exactly what they want to do with their lives and limiting them to three subject narrows down their choices.

The SQA has destroyed the reputation of the Scottish educational system, reducing it to a laughing stock

John Johnson
The fact that there were problems a year ago in delivering the results should not devalue the quality of the exams taken. And in response to Paul from the Isle of Man's comments, I started university at 16 and I had no problem running up 3,000 of student debts in my first year.
Fay, UK

The fiasco last year was a direct consequence of the quangoisation of the Scottish Examination Board by Michael Forsyth and the Tories back in 1996. I call on the executive to abolish the SQA and resurrect the Scottish Examination Board which was directly accountable to the government.
Stuart, Scotland

The SQA has destroyed the reputation of the Scottish educational system, reducing it to a laughing stock - and created a feeling of deep disillusionment amongst school students. I trust the inane blandishments and worthless assurances of both the SQA and Scottish Executive education spokespersons will not be accepted at face value by your interviewers. Please ensure they are subject to informed and rigourous questioning.
John Johnson, Inverness

I was hopeful that the SQA would get it right this year for me...last year they messed up my Geography and Maths Highers. But alas yet again I have received a result which I just cannot believe. I received a no award for Graphic Communication Higher; a subject in which I achieved 90% in the prelim and a guaranteeed A for my folio. Don't worry, I do intend to appeal, but how can they give me this mark if they checked with the school's estimates?
Derek, Scotland

Before the SQA Scottish pupils used to receive their results at the end of July. Now the results arrive halfway through August. After many have restarted their sixth year, by which time they should have been expected to make decisions about the subsequent year's courses! The SQA has a long way to go before they reach satisfactory.
Frank J Farrell, Scotland

The new system leads to more administrative problems than anything else

Robert Duncan
I can't believe that people are actually congratulating the SQA for doing a job they are paid to do, and for which they have all year to prepare. Thirty years ago, exam results were mailed out on time every time, year after year, and no-one thought anything of it. It was just the sort of job that bureaucrats were expected to be able to do. That's what a bureaucracy is supposed to be for. Standards have fallen so much in education and educational administration that when some educational administrator gets something right for a change, we are all amazed and gratified.
Jon Livesey, USA

Scottish Highers may be out in good order, but adults trying to pursue further education with the help of the individual learning account, may not be able to find out how to apply as there is no information in any other format than a leaflet in English. So too bad if you are visually impaired or your first language is not English .
Graeme Cumming, UK

Having sat exams myself under what was the former SED and the new SQA, I do have to say that I feel the new system leads to more administrative problems than anything else. Uner the old system it was one paper for all - under the new system we are faced with the potential of two levels for each student. The odds on mistakes being made are increased.

Being an SQA invigilator myself I see first hand some of the 'problems' that can occur - there will never be a perfect educational syllabus, nor yet a perfect examination system.

I do, however, feel that pupils need to be given some sort of self esteem, which is good under the new system, and I can honestly say exams are not getting easier, but merely that there are three different levels, i.e. Credit, General and Foundation.

Perhaps people who believe exams are easier should actually go and sit an exam paper themselves!
Robert Duncan, Scotland

I find it incredibly disheartening to receive hard earned results, only to have their worth undermined by "critics"

Catherine Simpson
As a fifth year student I'm happy to see that the results arrived accurately and on time, however one problem arose with the SQA's new system Standard Grade Credit maths exam. Lots of people found that exam to contain Higher material and found it too hard. The SQA had better solve this before next year's examination.
John Owen, Scotland

I agree with Paul from the Isle of Man. Surely a standard qualification in the UK is long overdue. And is it really fair to have results all released on different days? A-levels are not issued until Thursday and GCSEs in Northern Ireland come out on the 21st (Tuesday), not Thursday as in England and Wales.

I also, as a student awaiting A-level results, agree wholeheartedly with Daniel Pearson. I find it incredibly disheartening to receive hard earned results, only to have their worth undermined by "critics" claiming the standards are dropping.

I also would like to make a plea that such "critics" would realise that the AS-level results will not give an accurate picture of their "success" or "failure" because of the nature of the exams and whether or not students have decided to "cash in" their grades or not.
Catherine Simpson, Northern Ireland

Forget a statistic, Congratulations SQA, teachers and pupils for co-operating together to deliver results. Probably the best exams body in the world as a result of everybody's efforts.
Stuart, Scotland

I think concentrating on the statistical error today is unfair on the SQA. Last year's problems certainly led to more anxiety for students but I doubt that many were concentrating on the statistics today.
Tilda McCrimmon, Scotland

SQA + pupils + teachers 10/10 for getting the results. BBC + opposition politicians 0/10 for the arrogant disrespect shown by nit picking over a statistic. The people who really matter don't care. You forgot to ask yourself the 'so-what' question. Stop the gutter journalism and focus on celebrating success.
John, Scotland

I received my results with high anticipation. As I read them slowly, I was ecstatic until I saw for Economics I got a C...I got AAAAC and was highly frustrated! In my prelim, I got 84% for Economics (an A) and I have been consistent all year. How on earth did I manage to receive a C for a subject I am very good at? I plan to appeal, but the likelihood of me receiving a grade what I feel I am due is low.
Rafie Hannona, Falkirk, Scotland

My son received his exam results this morning. I don't know if this year's results are correct but he has noticed that one of last year's results has improved by two grades! Thank you SQA.
Stephen, scotland

I am amazed at the news from the SQA this morning given that my daughter and several of her friends did not receive their standard grade results at all - and my son's higher results bear no relation to reality whatsoever. Are they a very unfortunate minority or is the SQA covering up?
Rosaline Furnivall, Scotland

It would be much appreciated if the BBC would not add to this very tired annual debate about the alleged ever-increasing lowering in exam standards

Daniel Pearson
The reason why more people pass is because exams get easier. The belief that students work harder is a load of rubbish.
Dlo Brown, UK

Being a student receiving results for my Standard Grades, I can say I was impressed with the way things were handled this year as opposed to last. Although it must be noted that a friend of mine has still not received his results. So the system isn't the be-all-and-end-all of verification and distribution of exam results.
Brad McIlwraith, Scotland

Awaiting and receiving exam results is a stressful but potentially rewarding process for students. Sadly, the recent controversy surrounding the SQA may serve only to increase the stress levels and potentially under-cut the sense of achievement that students will experience (i.e. by undercutting the legitimacy of their grades).

It would be much appreciated if the BBC would not add to this by wheeling out what has become a very tired annual debate about the alleged ever-increasing lowering in exam standards. Had standards really been falling from year to year, Highers and their English equivalents, A and A/S levels would by now be so easy that a chimpanzee could pass them blindly.
Daniel Pearson, UK

What I can't understand is why there is no standard qualification throughout Britain? Although we are a separate jurisdiction on the Isle of Man and have our own education authority, we still use the English system.

Scottish students have a disadvantage when arriving at university in England or Wales since they are not at the legal age required to secure student loans and subsequently have to study for up to a year without any financial support, unlike other British students.
Paul, Isle of Man

Go to BBC Student EssentialsExam results?
Essential info - or phone, free: 0808 100 8000
See also:

14 Aug 01 | Scotland
Marked rise in exam passes
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
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Point stories