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The BBC's James Cook
"There is no way any student in Scotland can know for sure if their results are right or wrong"
 real 56k

Chief political correspondent John Morrison
"Educationally the controversy is a disaster, politically it's highly embarrassing"
 real 56k

Coshep director David Caldwell
"We still don't know for sure how serious and how widespread the problem is"
 real 28k

Saturday, 12 August, 2000, 02:39 GMT 03:39 UK
Minister confirms exam mistakes
Exams graphic
Education Minister Sam Galbraith is under pressure
Scottish Education Minister Sam Galbraith has admitted that inaccurate results have been posted to some candidates who sat Standard and Higher exams earlier this year.

But he said it was "totally irresponsible" to claim that these problems cast doubt on every certificate issued by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

"The SQA, with the help of teachers and education authorities, are working round the clock to resolve urgently every single case where a student has received incomplete results, and to investigate the inaccuracies which have emerged for a small number of candidates," he promised.

"Some of the so-called errors are based on a lack of understanding by commentators of the workings of the new system and the layout of the certificate."

Pupil sitting exam
The exams tension continues for hundreds
Mr Galbraith insisted the independent inquiry he has ordered would "get to the bottom" of all the problems.

Scotland's universities have warned that it could be two weeks before the problems with this year's Highers exams are sorted out.

A fortnight's delay would mean thousands of students - unable to sort out university places because of late or incomplete results certificates - would then have to compete with A-level students in the rest of the UK who have yet to receive their grades.

However, the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals (Coshep) gave assurances that no-one would lose a place, despite thousands of pupils receiving late or incomplete certificates.

Coshep director, David Caldwell, said the body wanted the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to tell it within 24 hours how it intends to resolve the crisis.

David Caldwell
David Caldwell: Offering students assurances
He said: "The important thing now is we try to be clear as to what the extent and nature of any problem is so that we can resolve it quickly and resolve it in the best interests of the candidates themselves who are the most important people.

"Once we know what that is, universities will make enormous efforts in order to ensure that candidates are not disadvantaged."

Coshep's warning came after a leading academic called for the reissue of exam certificates.

Professor of education policy at Edinburgh University, Lindsay Paterson, said the whole process had become so compromised that the only solution was to start again.

"All pupils' results must now be cast into doubt," he stated.

We have apologies from the SQA. However, this will never make up for the agony of a teenager who has told her peers about her results and then has to go back and say she got it wrong

Edinburgh parent
"I can't see how the universities and employers can possibly have any confidence that any of the results that have been issued are reliable. It's scandalous."

He said the onus was now on the SQA to win back public confidence and warned that it should consider the drastic step of reissuing all certificates.

Professor Paterson added that far more students may have been affected than the 1,400 the SQA has said received incomplete results.

Instead of receiving the results on Thursday, some will have to wait until next week to learn how they have done.

SQA logo
Wrong results were given out
A father from Edinburgh contacted BBC News Online Scotland to tell of his daughter's experience. He said the certificate did not arrive on Thursday so he and his wife separately telephoned the SQA helpline.

They were both informed that their daughter had achieved As in all her subjects and told her of the good news.

He wrote by e-mail: "Today (Friday) the real results arrived and she had two As, two Bs and one C.

"The people at the call centre had both made the same mistake, confusing Highers with Higher Still results.

"We have apologies from the SQA. However, this will never make up for the agony of a teenager who has told her peers about her results and then has to go back and say she got it wrong.

"Admin errors are bad enough but this is cruelty."

No certificates, no idea what the scenario really is. This is surely institutionalised torture

Deirdre Kelly
Another parent, Deirdre Kelly, from Glasgow, said she rang the SQA on Friday morning and was given four out of five of her son's results - an A, B, C and a fail.

But his school said the results were three As, a B and a C.

"I really don't know who to believe," she wrote. "Meanwhile, no certificates, no idea what the scenario really is. This is surely institutionalised torture.

"Even when the results are confirmed officially do you really think we will be comfortable with them?"

University admissions body Ucas has announced that pupils will be able to call a helpline to find out if they have a university place.

Delays in sending out Scottish exam results have prevented universities and colleges issuing decisions about applicants.

The helpline, which will open on Monday at 0800 BST, can be contacted on 01242 227788. Queries can also be sent by email.

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See also:

11 Aug 00 | Scotland
Plea for parliament exams probe
16 May 00 | Scotland
D-day for Scottish pupils
25 May 00 | UK Systems
Higher education
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