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Charmed to make your acquaintance by e-mail

Raymond Ross finds a direct communications system gives confidence

Grange optimism rules, OK, in Grange Academy, Kilmarnock, as far as headteacher Hugh Millar and his Scottish Qualifications Association co-ordinator, Stuart Wilson, are concerned.

They had an easy ride compared to some as far as last August's exam results were concerned and the appeals system has also been kind to them.

But if they lead a charmed life they reckon it is to do with two particular things: the efficiency of their school accounts manager at the SQA (congratulations to Sandy Riddle) and the fact that they have set up their own direct electronic communications system with the SQA.

Nine out of 10 problems which last year would have drifted on have been solved with a telephone call or an e-mail message, says Mr Wilson, who is also assistant headteacher.

"Last year we were never sure of the status of entries we had sent. This year we get confirmation reports, which is a great help. I'm confident the SQA holds the information I want it to hold," he says.

"We deal directly with the data managemnt department at the SQA. We don't use the SEEMIS or Phoenix data handling systems. That's not a criticism of them. It's just that we have developed our own software program (designed by Mr Millar) in Filemaker Pro.

"We've established an e-mail link with a named person and that's a great improvement. We send entries and results by e-mail and get confirmation back within half an hour.

"Last year there was always the worry that the files had not been received."

Except for some minor glitches, the system seems to serve Grange Academy well and all things with SQA seem fine and dandy.

Pupils are upbeat; staff views are mixed but the school management team feels things will go well in August.

The exams passed smoothly enough but the school has been unable to satisfy all the requests for what Mr Millar describes as "a heavy call on people for marking duties". Everyone is beginning to look forward to their holidays.

So, is this a case of all quiet on the western front or the quiet before the storm? They'll know before their holiday suntans have disappeared.

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