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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 14:53 GMT
Exams failure 'hidden' from chief
Bill Morton
Mr Morton was forced to apologise unreservedly
The man put in temporary charge of the Scottish Qualifications Authority was unaware of the latest failure by the organisation, it has emerged.

The SQA admitted it had not been able to complete all non-urgent Higher appeals from students by 31 October, despite promising to do so.

Instead, 196 out of 40,800 appeals remain to be dealt with and the SQA has pledged to finish these within two days.

Interim chief executive Bill Morton appeared before the Scottish Parliament's education committee on Wednesday morning to give evidence as part of MSPs' inquiry into the exams fiasco.


The information and the detail that's now available was not conveyed to me

Bill Morton
He was armed with a slideshow promoting the changes he has wrought within the SQA but his presentation was undermined by him having to open with the admission of another failure.

"I very much regret yet again coming before you and having to start with an apology but again, an apology is due," he told the committee.

Mr Morton then said he had been unaware that a new problem was looming.

'No excuse'

"Unfortunately, and there is no excuse for this and I am not offering any excuses for this, the information and the detail that's now available was not conveyed to me."

He described the situation as "hauntingly like recent history".

"This is not acceptable and I'm surprised it happened. I will reaffirm that this is not acceptable and should never happen again.

"This whole experience has been a wake-up call for the SQA and there's quite a lot of work to do in terms of catching up and moving us forward. That will entail a change in behaviour."

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell: Furious response
Mr Morton said he would not be taking disciplinary action against officials, who the Scottish Executive said had only released the information about the appeals delay on the SQA's website.

"Personal responsibility for this is withme. I'm not making excuses. I'm not going to point the finger at anybody."

The new Education Minister, Jack McConnell, reacted furiously to the authority's latest slip-up.

"I'm extremely angry that the SQA have yet again failed to meet their deadline.

"This illustrates the clear need to act quickly and decisively on the findings of the Deloitte and Touche report.

"I am determined to take all possible steps to prevent anything like this happening again. Scotland's children deserve better," he added.

Restructuring work

A spokesman for the SQA said: "We accept that we have missed the deadline that we imposed here but would point out that 28,000 appeals have been cleared and that the remaining 200 will be cleared in the next two days.

"Clearly, there has been a lot of restructuring at SQA in the past few weeks and that is not complete.

"Until that is done the organisation will not be operating in the way we would want it to."

History papers
The SQA promised to complete appeals by 31 October
However, he pledged the SQA was determined to perform its function effectively.

Scottish National Party education spokesman Mike Russell called for independent supervision of the agency "for the foreseeable future".

He said: "This is very bad news. If the SQA's new management cannot deliver the essential information to young people and cannot guarantee that Scotland's examination system will operate as it should then further urgent action is needed, over and above the changes to date.

"The former education minister Sam Galbraith and his department committed themselves publicly to support and help those young people who felt they had to appeal.

"Now these young people have been failed again. There may have been a change of minister, but there has been no change in the abysmal standard of performance by the SQA and by the Scottish Office Education Department."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Political editor Brian Taylor
"Bill Morton had been hung out to dry"
Brian Taylor reports
"The SQA had done it again, missing the deadline for Higher appeals in nearly 200 cases"

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20 Oct 00 | Scotland
15 Oct 00 | Scotland
09 Oct 00 | Scotland
06 Oct 00 | Scotland
05 Oct 00 | Scotland
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