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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
Pressure for exams shake-up
Scottish Qualifications Authority logo
The SQA is expected to come under fire
The future of the body which oversees Scotland's exams system is coming under renewed scrutiny despite no apparent repeat of last year's fiasco.

The Scottish National Party has tabled a parliamentary motion calling for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to be disbanded and a new exams body to be set up.

Although the SQA managed to deliver accurate results on time and avoid a repeat of last year's debacle, the authority is still in the firing line.

The SNP has seized on the fact the SQA had to apologise for making a mistake about pass rates for Higher exams.

SNP Education spokesman Mike Russell
Mr Russell: Parliamentary motion
The SQA originally announced a 7% increase in the Higher pass rate this year, when it was actually 1.3%.

SNP education spokesman Mike Russell said he was "horrified" by the exam body's latest blunder, and argued that the SQA simply "could not handle data".

He tabled a parliamentary motion calling for a complete and rapid review.

He wants a new examinations body and a review of Higher Still - the new examination structure which sparked last year's chaos.

Tory education spokesman Brian Monteith said a thorough review of Higher Still was needed to cut down on unnecessary administration.

Survey warning

That follows claims from parents and teaching unions that the new exams were penalising pupils.

Last month, a survey by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) suggested that pupils taking five advanced Highers were burdened with internal assessments, leaving little time for learning.

It warned that pupils sitting exams in five subjects could be at a disadvantage because of the extra workload.

Brian Monteith, Scottish Conservative Education spokesman
Mr Monteith: Unnecessary administration
In June, delegates at the annual meeting of the EIS - Scotland's largest teaching union - voted to boycott next year's Higher Still assessments.

Education Minister Jack McConnell has already said a review of this year's exams process will be carried out.

In an answer to a parliamentary question, Mr McConnell said: "The executive has begun an internal review of the options for future status.

"To avoid unnecessary disruption to the continuing work of the SQA, I will progress this review swiftly and announce the outcome early in the autumn.

"Alongside work on the future of the SQA, the executive is committed to work on simplification of the national qualifications framework, building on the lessons of the first two years.

Absolute focus

"The national exams co-ordinator is leading work on implementation of the actions already agreed to achieve that and the preparation of consultation on possible further changes and this will be the main focus of the next phase of his work."

The SQA's chief executive, Bill Morton, pledged the authority would maintain its "absolute focus" on the interests of candidates.

"There remains a powerful desire here within the SQA to bring this phase of the delivery of the 2001 diet to a rapid conclusion, and in turn to handle appeals with efficiency and rigour," he said.

"I would like to offer my thanks for the efforts of the staff and board at the SQA, and in turn commend schools and colleges for their hard work this year."

The authority said a candidate helpline took just 300 calls on Wednesday, all related to the design and general content of certificates.

John Morrison reports
"The SQA is still under examination."

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See also:

14 Aug 01 | Scotland
Exams body gets it right - almost
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Exams body gets its sums wrong
14 Aug 01 | Talking Point
Has the Scottish exams body passed?
13 Aug 01 | Scotland
Scottish results arrive early
12 Aug 01 | Scotland
Exams boss answers his critics
10 Aug 01 | Scotland
SQA bill could top 11m
09 Aug 01 | Education
'Distorted' exam results warning
21 May 01 | Education
Students' worries over new exams
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