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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
A year under the microscope
Exams sign
The exams body has been under the microscope
By BBC Scotland education reporter Martha Fairlie

It was described as a shambles, a fiasco and a crisis.

As the exams system went into meltdown in August 2000, many feared the reputation of Scottish education had suffered irreparable damage.

Most doubted it could recover in time for the delivery of this year's results.

Over 12 months, the Scottish Qualifications Authorityhas been living under the microscope.

Bill Morton
Bill Morton was brought in as SQA chief executive
It has been subject to constant scrutiny by politicians, independent auditors, teachers and the media.

The authority had buckled under the volume of work that the new Higher Still system demanded - and it had to make sure there would not be a repeat this year.

A new management team, headed by chief executive Bill Morton and chairman John Ward, was installed at SQA headquarters.

A detailed action plan was drawn up listing every critical event vital to the successful delivery of exam results in August 2001.

Education Minister Jack McConnell, whose predecessor Sam Galbraith had insisted the SQA should operate at "arm's length" from the government, decided to take a more hands-on approach.

Under control

He set up a Ministerial Review Group to keep an eye on the SQA's progress, as well as receiving regular briefings from its board of directors.

Slowly, the system was brought under control.

But the amount of data processing involved in Higher Still is still causing problems.

This year, candidate information was passed back and forth three or four times between the SQA and schools and colleges just to check it was correct.

That kind of belt-and-braces approach is not acceptable or sustainable in the long term.

Scottish Qualifications Authority logo
Signs are good for the SQA
In the short term, the signs are good.

The universities and colleges admissions service Ucas processed the results of candidates applying for further and higher education, and reported only a small number of anomalies this year.

Results were e-mailed to schools and colleges on Friday there appeared to be no serious prolems.

Teachers felt more confident this year that things would go smoothly.

The results were delivered to most students on Tuesday and the impression was that all had gone well - apart from a statistical error in the rate of Higher passes.

Despite this, the SQA appears to have managed to more or less turn around a system which seemed to have sufffered serious damage.

However, the fight to fully restore the SQA's reputation continues.


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Last year's problems

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See also:

10 Aug 01 | Scotland
09 Aug 01 | UK Education
03 Aug 01 | Scotland
21 May 01 | UK Education
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