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Monday, 9 October, 2000, 22:33 GMT 23:33 UK
No guarantee from exams chief
Lewis Mackinnon
Lewis Mackinnon's physics results went missing
Exams chief Bill Morton has admitted he can not guarantee that all the problems within the system will be solved by next summer.

The interim chief executive of the Scottish Examinations Authority was giving evidence to the education committee inquiry into this year's fiasco.

MSPs had earlier heard at first hand how the problems caused depression and unacceptable levels of stress and anxiety among pupils.

And Scotland's leading schools inspector told them that he saw no sign of the "cataclysmic" events.

Mr Morton had already outlined a catalogue of mistakes by the SQA in the run-up to the exams in his written evidence to the committee.

Bill Morton
Bill Morton could not give a guarantee
These included poor management, a lack of accountability and evidence of concern over bullying.

On Monday he described this as a hit list and said he wanted to make right everything that was wrong.

However, under questioning from the SNP's Mike Russell he could not give an absolute guarantee that everything would be right for pupils sitting exams in the summer of 2001.

"I'll certainly do my very best to prevent a recurrence, but it would be foolish at this stage to give an absolute guarantee it won't happen again," he said.

The education committee sitting in Hamilton also heard of the damaging effects the errors and delays in results had on pupils.

One father accused the education authorities of using pupils sitting the new Higher Still qualifications, which were subject to particular problems, as "guinea-pigs" and said the SQA was no longer trusted.

Lewis Mackinnon and Alan Burns, of Uddingston Grammar School, both said the SQA had lost their higher physics results.


They were using our kids as guinea pigs and as a parent it's unacceptable

Ken Anderson, parent
Lewis told the committee he had "reluctantly" received his results from the helpline set up by the exams body and had passed two highers.

But when he asked about his physics exam he was told there was no record of it.

He said: "Obviously I was very worried about that because I had done quite well at that in school and wanted to continue into my sixth year.

"I had a letter from the SQA saying there was a complication and I was due an A in my higher physics. I'm still waiting on the full certificate."

Christina Fotheringham, of Hamilton Grammar School, passed several standard grades.

'Really disappointed'

But the SQA misplaced her accounting and finance exam paper.

She said: "I felt really disappointed because I knew I had really put the work in and the teacher put the work in but it was the SQA who mixed that up."

Parents Janette Moore and Ken Anderson told MSPs that the SQA's credibility had been destroyed by the fiasco.

Mr Anderson said: "They were using our kids as guinea pigs and as a parent it's unacceptable."

Mr Anderson told the committee that his son Stephen and the rest of the family were put under immense pressure when problems arose with Stephen's results.

The school board governor said: "You can imagine the stress level in the family. The stress level was unbelievable."

Ken Anderson
Ken Anderson: Pupils were treated like "guinea pigs"
MSPs also heard from Scotland's leading schools inspector, Douglas Ostler, who said he had seen no sign of the cataclysmic events to come at the SQA.

However, the committee was unhappy with his evidence, with some members accusing him of stonewalling.

Meanwhile, a deal has been struck to give MSPs access to confidential documents as part of their inquiry into the exams crisis.

Education Minister Sam Galbraith had initially rejected SNP demands to let the two Scottish Parliament committees investigating the problems see the confidential advice from officials to ministers.

However, he has now offered to let members of the education and enterprise and lifelong learning committees see a summary of the documentation.

The committee conveners will be allowed to see the full documents on a confidential basis.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's John Morrison reports
"Pupils have lost faith in the entire education system"

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See also:

06 Oct 00 | Scotland
05 Oct 00 | Scotland
04 Oct 00 | Scotland
29 Sep 00 | Scotland
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