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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Shake-up for exams body
Scottish Qualifications Authority logo
The SQA has come under close scrutiny
Proposals for the reform of Scotland's exams body have been unveiled by Education Minister Jack McConnell.

He told MSPs on Thursday that the Scottish Qualification Authority's board would be reduced in number and outlined plans for closer communication with ministers.

But the Scottish National Party said the moves did not tackle the fundamental flaw within the structure of the SQA.

This year's exam results were delivered accurately and on time, avoiding a repeat of the debacle in the summer of 2000 when thousands of students had missing or inaccurate certificates.

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell: Changes to the structure
But the minister knows that the level of goodwill and support from teachers, schools and local authorities, which delivered success in 2001, cannot be expected year on year.

Mr McConnell told the Scottish Parliament that he wanted to simplify the exams system.

He said a consultation document would be published soon on "radical" changes to assessment.

But he said that scrapping the SQA was not on the agenda.

"Scotland needs an effective and reliable awarding body, independent from political interference, delivering a rational and coherent awards system," he said.


The inevitable disruption associated with any radical change of status would be an unacceptable distraction that could put delivery of next year's exams at risk

Education Minister Jack McConnell
"Abolishing the SQA is not a creditable option.

"Nor is it an option to transfer the functions of the SQA to the executive - it is important that the provider of Scotland's qualifications is seen to be independent of political pressures."

He said the organisation would continue as an executive quango - although with closer monitoring by ministers and officials.

"The inevitable disruption associated with any radical change of status would be an unacceptable distraction that could put delivery of next year's exams at risk," he said.

"I do not believe that such a risk is justified when confidence in Scottish education as a whole is at stake."

Mr McConnell wants to reduce the size of the 24-strong SQA board to between seven and nine members.

Different tasks

He also wants an advisory board to give a voice to bodies which have an interest in the qualifications system.

However, the SNP said the statement failed to tackle the source of many of the problems - the merging of two separate organisations which perform different tasks for schools and colleges.

Education spokesman Mike Russell said they had not gelled properly.

The Tories said the SQA had to remain independent of ministers.


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15 Aug 01 | Scotland
14 Aug 01 | Scotland
14 Aug 01 | Scotland
13 Aug 01 | Scotland
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