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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
'How exams crisis happened'
Ron Tuck SQA graphic
Ron Tuck resigned from the SQA in August
The former chief executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority has explained the reasons for the chaos which descended on this year's school exam results.

Ron Tuck, who resigned at an early stage of the fiasco, appeared before the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee.

MSPs are conducting an inquiry into why thousands of results were late, incomplete and wrong.


In particular the difficulties of data management did not surface until late June. Indeed the other problems were greater than I believed them to be up until August 10

Ron Tuck
Education Minister Sam Galbraith has refused to quit, arguing that he was unable to intervene in the affairs of the SQA, a non-departmental body.

In a written submission for the enterprise committee hearing, Mr Tuck detailed how the authority had faced "significant challenges" since it was created in 1997.

"The problems with the issue of this year's examination results arose because an overstretched organisation failed ultimately to cope with the many severe pressures it faced," he said.

"It was SQA's responsibility - and mine in particular - either to indicate to the Scottish Executive that successful implementation within the given timescale could not be guaranteed, or to manage the process of change effectively.

"Our view was that the goal was demanding but achievable, and we therefore implicitly accepted the challenge."

Meeting details

He said the "crucial flaw" that led to the problems with certification lay in the management of data.

"The SQA board and the Scottish Executive could only act on the basis of information provided by SQA senior management.

"While we were honest and open in our reporting both to our board and Scottish Executive officials, there turned out to be problems of which I (and my senior management colleagues) were not fully aware.

Sam Galbraith
Sam Galbraith: Refuses to quit
"In particular the difficulties of data management did not surface until late June. Indeed the other problems were greater than I believed them to be up until August 10."

Mr Tuck's written submission goes into detail about meetings with Scottish Executive officials and offers of help.

By the end of June there were "significant" problems with data management and from then on there were weekly meetings with executive officials, who helped set up arrangements for liaising with schools over retrieving data.

SQA chairman David Miller and Mr Tuck met Mr Galbraith and senior officials on 22 July, where the minister was told of the situation.

Missing data

There was a problem of missing data affecting a small proportion of candidates, this was unlikely to be fully resolved by 9 August.

But it was known which candidates were affected and correctly amended results could be sent out shortly after schools returned from the summer break, he explained.

The possibility of a week's delay was discussed, but the SQA believed that nearly all youngsters would receive complete results on 10 August.

There was no guarantee a week's delay would rectify all the data omissions so it was agreed to go ahead and issue certificates as planned.

"Subsequent to August 10, it has become clear that the information I had was inaccurate. Mr Galbraith and his officials were misinformed about the situation, but unwittingly so," said Mr Tuck.

SQA chairman David Miller told the commitee that his board had asked a lot of questions - but the answers received from the authority's management was inaccurate.

He said he had gone to the exam HQ in Dalkeith on 10 August to discover many certificates had not been posted.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Education correspondent Kenneth Macdonald
"Mr Tuck gave an unflinching assessment to the committee"

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See also:

06 Sep 00 | Scotland
06 Sep 00 | Scotland
05 Sep 00 | Scotland
02 Sep 00 | Scotland
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