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James Cook reports
"An independent inquiry has been promised"
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The BBC's Emma Simpson
"It's been a very rocky start to a new era in Scottish education"
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Friday, 11 August, 2000, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
Plea for parliament exams probe
Pupil through letterbox
Many pupils have been waiting for results to arrive
Delays in sending out this year's Higher exam results have prompted a call for a Scottish parliamentary inquiry.

The convener of the parliament's education committee, Mary Mulligan MSP, said she would be seeking support for an investigation into the problems.

The chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), Ron Tuck, has admitted that the handling of this year's exam results had fallen "well below" standard and he accepted full responsibility.


I would hope that the committee would agree to have an investigation into what went wrong

Mary Mulligan
More than 2,000 Scottish school pupils did not receive their long-awaited exam results and hundreds more received incomplete certificates.

The SQA blamed the delay on new computer and administrative systems.

More confusion was created by the failure of the UK-wide admissions service, Ucas, to supply some Scottish universities with accurate analysis of Highers results.

The SQA tried to get round the delay by sending results to schools by e-mail but not all schools were online.

Pupils who did not receive their results were told that they would have to wait until next week to know how they had done.

Mary Mulligan
Mary Mulligan: Wants backing of committee colleagues
Scottish Education Minister, Sam Galbraith, has already promised an independent inquiry.

However, Ms Mulligan, a Labour colleague, said she would be asking the education committee to conduct its own investigation.

She said: "I would hope that the committee would agree to a proposal I will be putting to them to actually have an investigation into what went wrong, into how we can put those things right and hopefully ensure that this doesn't happen again."

Deputy Education Minister, Peter Peacock, said he hoped there would be no more confusion and the independent inquiry would look into procedures followed by the SQA and Ucas.

He said: "The events that have unfolded demonstrated just how right Sam Galbraith was to institute an independent inquiry into what's been going on at SQA and to make sure that the circumstances that have arisen don't ever arise again because they're quite unacceptable.

Peter Peacock
Peter Peacock: Seeking to avoid a repeat of problems
"The inquiry will need to look into the relationship between SQA and Ucas to make sure that the interfaces that clearly didn't work will work in future."

The delays were greeted with dismay by already anxious pupils and exasperation by schools staff.

Aberdeen City Council said it would be making an official complaint to the SQA and asking the Scottish Executive to investigate the events which led to this week's problems.

Scottish Tory education spokesman Brian Monteith MSP said Mr Galbraith's role should also be subject to inquiry.

"It is brave of Ron Tuck, as chief executive of the SQA, to hold up his hands and say that the buck stops with him," said Mr Monteith.

"But the truth is that the buck does not stop with Mr Tuck, it goes all the way to the top and the education minister.

Caroline Brodie
Caroline Brodie, 16, checks the post but no results
"It is the minister, more than anyone, who must be held accountable for the failures of the system that he approved."

Meanwhile, Royal Mail confirmed it had received a consignment of results as late as Thursday morning.

It said staff were doing all they could to deliver envelopes as quickly as possible.

And one postman had undertaken a 200-mile round trip to Stranraer to deliver a certificate which had been sent to Glasgow by mistake.

Telephone hotlines have been set up to help hundreds of pupils for whom the delays mean an anxious wait before they know if they've got into university.

Anyone wanting information from the Scottish Qualifications Authority can ring 0141 242 2160 or contact the SQA by e-mail.

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16 May 00 | Scotland
D-day for Scottish pupils
25 May 00 | UK Systems
Higher education
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