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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 18:56 GMT
Exams body warns of more trouble
Prof John Ward
Prof John Ward issued a warning on the exams system
Scotland's exams body has admitted that delays in registering students for next year's exams could cause a fresh results crisis.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority said a third of centres had failed to meet the November deadline to register information on candidates.

And chairman, Professor John Ward, refused to back an assurance by First Minister Henry McLeish that there would "never" be a repeat of this year's results debacle.

Prof Ward said it could be "three years" before the system was completely foolproof.


If it is going to take three years to fix inevitably we will have problems through the year

Prof John Ward, SQA chairman
Chaos reined during the summer when Highers, Standards and CSYS students faced delays and inaccuracies in results.

The SQA statement on Tuesday followed last week's report by the Scottish Parliament's Education Committee into the fiasco which said the results system came close to collapse and made a series of recommendations.

The SQA said a third of schools and colleges had still to register candidates for the 2001 exams - more than a month late.

Asked about the first minister's pledge, Prof Ward said: "Henry has his views. I can only say that from him and (Education Minister) Jack McConnell we have had huge support.

"In so far as how he based that particular comment you would have to ask him."

Pupil reading results
Thousands of pupils were affected
Prof Ward also issued a warning about the length of time it would take to ensure the results system was watertight.

He said: "If it is going to take three years to fix inevitably we will have problems through the year.

However, Prof Ward, who has been in post for a month, said: "There was no reason for students not to get complete and accurate results on time.

"There is no reason why this year cannot be okay."

Bill Morton, the SQA's new chief executive, admitted there was "no estimate" of the number of students involved in registration because the figures did not exist.

Schools and colleges were due to register candidates for May's exams by 20 November, 2000, but by 11 December, when a second deadline was set, 380 had responded and 187 had not.

Four-part process

Mr Morton said he was not apportioning blame but added: "We have tried to get the message across for the registrations to be in on time."

He said the registration was the first stage in a four-part process leading to students receiving certificates in August, with details of which exams they were sitting due with the SQA later this month.

"The slippage could have a significant impact," said Mr Morton.

"I am a little surprised, I am a little disappointed. We need this data in everybody's interest to start the process."

Mr Morton said no new deadline had been set for the data to be received and the SQA would be writing to directors of education and schools to remind them it was needed but he said there was no power to compel the data to be produced.

Exams certificate
Some pupils are still questioning results
The admission came after a number of students who alleged they were unfairly treated in this year's results began the process of taking the SQA to court.

They said the SQA's appeals process was in breach of human rights legislation which guaranteed an independent appeal process.

Mr Morton said he would not want to see exams scripts given back to schools as teachers' leaders and council education bosses have demanded.

He told reporters he was not aware of the specifics of the legal action and added: "If that does take place then we would need to judge our actions accordingly."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Alan Mackay reports
"A third of schools have ignored two deadlines"

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See also:

11 Dec 00 | Scotland
10 Dec 00 | Scotland
08 Dec 00 | Scotland
07 Dec 00 | Scotland
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