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"The main Nationalist opposition was not impressed"
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SNP Leader Alex Salmond
"Sam Galbraith can run from this, but he cannot hide"
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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK
Exams body blamed for debacle
Scottish parliament
The minister addressed MSPS on the issue
Scotland's education minister has laid responsibility for the exams crisis firmly at the door of the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament for the first time since the crisis began last month, Sam Galbraith said evidence of problems with the SQA's system of managing results first came to light in March.

He said pupils were still left with incomplete results in August, despite "continued assurances" to the minister and repeated checks by his officials on the progress of handling this year's exams data.

Sam Galbraith
Sam Galbraith: Repeated his apology for the problems
He offered another apology to pupils, parents and teachers for the distress caused by the exams confusion and pledged a series of measures which he said would ensure no repeat of the fiasco.

Detailing his department's dealings with the SQA in the months, weeks and days leading up to the issue of the first results on 10 August, Mr Galbraith said there were repeated guarantees that Higher, CSYS and Standard Grade results would be dealt with efficiently.

He said: "Again and again I and my officials raised specific concerns. Again and again we were offered reassurances that - at the end of the day - were worthless.

"Even over the period immediately preceding 10 August and the emergence of the full extent of SQA's failure, a reliable response to my repeated calls for detailed information was not forthcoming."

The minister said he acted quickly to instigate an independent inquiry when it emerged that the results of 1,500 candidates were incomplete.

Appeals procedure

Despite further confusion with CSYS and Standard Grade results, Mr Galbraith said the problems were being ironed out.

He told the parliament that all grades at higher at CSYS levels had been confirmed and "all but 85 Standard Grade cases" have been reviewed.

Reiterating his pledge that no student would be disadvantaged by the crisis, he said the appeals procedure was under way and 2.6% more university applicants had been assured places than at the same time last year.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon: Continuing to demand answers
Mr Galbraith announced that the independent consultants Deloitte Touche would carry out an inquiry for the Scottish Executive and he promised to find out exactly what went wrong.

He also pledged that the future of the SQA is to be reviewed with no options ruled out.

However, Mr Galbraith's explanation that the SQA was responsible for what happened and he, as a minister, had done all he could, was dismissed by the Scottish National Party.

Education spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said: "Why (did) he, over a period of six months, accept assurances from the SQA, even although those assurances were in stark contradiction to the repeated warnings he was receiving from teachers, from pupils, from parents, that all was not well and that the exam results would not be delivered on time?

"What positive action was he, as the person responsible for the education system, taking to try and avert this crisis?"

Tory spokesman Brian Monteith continued to calls for the minister's resignation.

He said: "Does the minister comprehend that not only was there chaos at the SQA but his crisis management as a government minister was woefully short of what we should expect and that he is guilty of presiding over the worst education crisis in living memory?"

I want to know what is going to be the timescale for resolving all these issues

Andrew Holmes, pupil's parent
Doubt was later cast on Mr Galbraith's assertions that most results had been confirmed.

Lisa Cuthbertson, a pupil at St Thomas of Aquin's Secondary School in Edinburgh, said: "Sam Galbraith was talking about how there has been confirmation of the results, but none of the pupils have received any of that confirmation."

Parent Andrew Holmes said the statement had left him "depressed and angry".

He said: "I want to know what is going to be the timescale for resolving all these issues.

"It is quite clear that the number of appeals is going to be far, far greater than the system has ever had to cope with before."

Earlier an education committee member urged opposition colleagues not to make their parliamentary inquiry a witch hunt against the minister.

Labour MSP Karen Gillon said a failure to establish all the facts before announcing the findings of the inquiry would render it a "farce".

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See also:

06 Sep 00 | Scotland
Galbraith in exams fiasco spotlight
05 Sep 00 | Scotland
Executive to set up exams watchdog
04 Sep 00 | Scotland
Parliament tackles exams chaos
31 Aug 00 | Scotland
Exam checks not carried out
30 Aug 00 | Scotland
Senior exam officials leave jobs
28 Aug 00 | Scotland
Teachers' exams fears 'ignored'
28 Aug 00 | Scotland
Education stuck in 'time warp'
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