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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Exams body gets its sums wrong
Exam envelopes at SQA HQ
Envelopes have been delivered on Tuesday
Bosses at the Scottish Qualifications Authority have admitted to a blunder over this year's exam results.

The authority has revealed that instead of a much heralded 7% increase in the pass rate, the actual increase was 1.3%.

The SQA has apologised, saying the error arose from a false comparison with last year's pre-appeal pass rate.

The exams body has been under intense scrutiny after 17,000 pupils received incorrect results last summer.


This further unforgivable set of errors proves the need for a root and branch review

Mike Russell, Scottish National Party
Fears had been expressed on Tuesday that the reported 7% increase in the pass rate indicated that the Higher Still exams were too easy.

However, that figure of 7% has now been significantly revised to the embarrassment of SQA officials.

A spokesman for the SQA said that, at the height of the crisis last year, it put the pass rate at 65.3%.

It later revised that to 71.1 per cent. This year's figure is 72.4%, a rise of just 1.3%.

SQA Chief Executive, Bill Morton, said the issuing of the incorrect pass rate was a regrettable error for which he apologised.

Bill Morton
Bill Morton: Offered an apology
But he said it should not detract from the successful performance by young people who had passed their exams.

An SQA helpline, which has been set up to assist people who have received their results, said it had received more than 1,200 calls on Tuesday afternoon.

It said none of the calls were about late or inaccurate results, raising hopes that there has been no repeat of last year's problems.

However, the error in the pass rate increase figure was expected to be a blow for the SQA.

Scottish National Party education spokesman, Mike Russell, said the confusion had made "a near farce" of the results and he demanded reforms of the exams system.

He said: "This further unforgivable set of errors proves the need for a root and branch review of both the body that supervises the exams, and the exams themselves.

'Still overburdened'

"Even after spending over 11m of emergency funding the SQA is still unable to secure the confidence of Scotland, still less the confidence of young people, parents and teachers who it exists to serve.

Mr Russell praised the hard work of teachers and SQA staff in avoiding a repeat of last year's fiasco, but insisted the Higher Still system was still "overburdened by bureaucracy".

He said: "One of the problems is the sheer amount of data that this system creates, and no doubt that has aggravated the difficulties of the SQA in assessing exactly what has happened this year.

The error came to light when Education Minister Jack McConnell, a former maths teacher, asked the authority to double check the figures.

Jack McConnell interviewed by BBC Scotland
Mr McConnell has questioned the pass rate
The minister had faced media questioning over the apparent 7% increase in the pass rate.

He denied the authority had marked papers more leniently this year after the debacle of last year, when the SQA issued 17,000 wrong or inaccurate results.

Mr McConnell had defended what appeared at that stage to be a sharply increased pass rate, saying the new exam system was better adapted to the needs of more youngsters.

When questioned about the mistake during a visit to an Edinburgh school later in the morning, Mr McConnell described the error as "minor" and said it had now been corrected.

He insisted that it would not affect the exam results delivered to thousands of pupils across Scotland.

Mr McConnell told reporters: "They made a mistake last night and I am pleased that they have corrected it and today we should be celebrating the success of young people in Scotland and their teachers.

"They worked very hard over the last year through difficult circumstances and I want to make sure that their success is awarded and recognised.

"I think we can move on now and make sure these exams work year after year in the future."

Mr McConnell welcomed the real pass rate for pupils sitting their Higher exams describing it as very good.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Cassell reports
"The SQA has received more than 700 calls"
The BBC's Aileen Clarke
"The SQA issued the wrong figures"

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Changes imposed

Last year's problems

Background:

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

14 Aug 01 | Talking Point
13 Aug 01 | Scotland
12 Aug 01 | Scotland
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
09 Aug 01 | UK Education
21 May 01 | UK Education
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