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Sunday, 12 August, 2001, 19:10 GMT 20:10 UK
Exams boss answers his critics
Bill Morton and Kenneth MacDonald
Ken MacDonald put your questions to Bill Morton
  Click here to watch an archive of the webcast.

The chief of Scotland's exams body has moved to reassure candidates that their results will be on time and accurate.

In a special BBC News Online Scotland webcast, Bill Morton answered his critics on the way the 2001 examination process has been handled.

Dozens of people e-mailed News Online with their questions for the chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Mr Morton said he understood that the debacle last year - which saw thousands of candidates receive late or inaccurate results - had undermined confidence in this year's process.


We have made an amazing amount of progress in the last year, but there is still some way to go

Bill Morton
SQA chief executive

But he stressed that checking the accuracy of results had been significantly bolstered, and that barring any mishap in the postal system all candidates would receive their results on 14 August.

Mr Morton said: "The accuracy of the results this year has been subject to a whole series of checks that were not in place last year.

"The information we received from the schools has been checked on numerous occasions before the results are processed.

"I think that should give confidence that the results should be accurate."

However, he explained that if any pupils had concerns about their own results they should go to their school or college, which should be able to offer advice.

He said that last year the SQA had operated on the basis of what it thought it knew.

"This year we believe that we know where we are and can be openly accountable for it," he said.

Exams hall
There have been fears of a repeat fiasco

"If there are things that we still have to do, it is only right and proper that candidates know that."

In response to users' questions, Mr Morton defended an innovation for this year which has seen results sent to schools before they go to candidates.

He said: "The reason schools get the information in advance is partly to help the schools because they have a lot of preparation to put in place before the results are issued to answer any queries that the candidates might have, and colleges likewise.

"We have to allow schools the opportunity to prepare for the term ahead and I think it is right that schools and colleges may be under pressure, but they have been good enough to hold the embargo and use the information for the purpose intended."

Mr Morton also played down claims - made last year - that the problems with the year 2000 results had been caused by computer problems.

SQA certificate
The SQA has made a number of changes

He said: "The computer problem story is a good way of simplifying the story.

"But the truth of the matter is that last year the problem was data management."

He said that computer systems in use this year had been thoroughly tested and again stressed that there had been numerous checks made on data.

Mr Morton rejected suggestions made in recent media coverage that there were problems with some results.

"We are checking a small number of results. On Friday it was just under 1400 results," he said.

"These are not problems, these are not issues that we are doing anything other than confirming that the information we have is exactly as it should be."

Candidates get their results
Mr Morton said the results should arrive on time

The SQA chief refused to be drawn into speculaton on what the future might hold for him because his contract, which saw him move to the body on secondment, finishes in November.

However, he did praise his staff for the efforts they had made in difficult times and times of great change.

"We have made an amazing amount of progress in the last year, but there is still some way to go," he said.

"My chairman and I have both said publicly that in our estimation it could take three years for the SQA to be truly operational.

"But this year I expect the evidence will be there to demonstrate that we have come a long way."


Latest

Changes imposed

Last year's problems

Background:

WEBCAST

AUDIO VIDEO

Go to BBC Student EssentialsExam results?
Essential advice and information for students
See also:

10 Aug 01 | Scotland
09 Aug 01 | UK Education
03 Aug 01 | Scotland
21 May 01 | UK Education
Internet links:


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