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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Exams body 2000 markers short
SQA staff at work
The exams body wants to recruit 8,000 markers and 800 backers
More than 2000 markers are still needed by the body which runs Scotland's exam system, Education Minister Jack McConnell has told the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has employed 6500 markers for this year, but the service needs another 2000 before the exams begin in four weeks time.

Mr McConnell said the SQA hoped to recruit 8000 markers plus a further 800 as backers.

But he told the parliament that only 6632 people had agreed to mark this year's papers.

The minister said the shortfall was causing "particular concern".

Education Minister Jack McConnell
Mr McConnell was updating MSPs
He said the task of recruiting the sufficient amount of markers in the weeks ahead was "a challenge".

Mr McConnell was giving MSPs an update on the progress the SQA was making towards organising this year's exams.

The organisation received a major shake-up following last year's exam fiasco, when thousands of students were sent the wrong grades.

Mr McConnell said: "The ministerial review group which we established to act as an early warning system and to monitor progress towards the 2001 exams has highlighted a particular concern with the recruitment of markers.

Pool of reserves

"The SQA has estimated that it will require 8000 markers and has added a 10% contingency which brings its target up to 8800.

"As of Wednesday the SQA had confirmed 6632 appointments and had issued a further 1637 invitations.

"For the remainder the SQA is actively reviewing its pool of reserves and recent applications.

"These outstanding appointments are not spread evenly across the range of subjects and the SQA has identified subjects for targeted action.

"These include French, English and business-related subjects.

The SQA has estimated that it will require 8000 markers and has added a 10% contingency which brings its target up to 8800.

Education Minister Jack McConnell
"This is a challenge but we should all remember that last year the SQA were still recruiting markers in June."

The reluctance of markers to come forward after last year's fiasco is despite a 50% increase in fees.

Mr McConnell told MSPs the Scottish Executive had spent 3m in an effort to make sure this year's exams were carried out successfully.

He said all schools in Scotland had submitted registration data while 98% of exam papers had been sent to the printers, in comparison with less than 80% at the same time last year.

Correcting errors

However he stressed that the executive were not complacent and would work hard over the coming weeks to ensure the exams were a success.

Mr McConnell said: "There are four months to go before exam results land on doormats and there are little more than four weeks before the exams get under way.

"Since last autumn the education and political community of Scotland has rallied together to put young people first.

"It is not a pain-free or straightforward process but it is making a difference. We can be confident that preparations are well ahead for this year but we cannot be complacent.

"By checking, monitoring, reporting and indeed correcting errors week after week we can succeed in that challenge together."

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