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Computer reboot as entries soar

SQA chiefs repeated their apologies for the technological teething problems which beset this year's exams and were lambasted for their pains by Trevor Jones of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association who asked them to offer "redress" to schools for their "incompetence".

David Miller, the authority's chairman, whose background is in industry, said no private or public organisation embarking on a massive IT overhaul, which required the integration and upgrading of the systems operated by the SQA's two predecessor bodies, could expect it to run smoothly from the outset.

Neil MacGowan, who heads the Higher Still implementation unit, said that despite the hitches the number of fifth-year pupils taking this year's examswas up on last year and in line with projections. There were 118,835 entries for the new Higher and 49,612 for the old Higher - a total of 168,447 compared with just over 160,000 last year.

Intermediate I courses drew 10,638 entries and the sub-Higher Intermediate II 37,448. The grand total is 216,533, as more subjects are added to the menu and more "non-Higher" students become eligible.

Work is also in hand to develop access courses, largely for special needs or Standard grade Foundation pupils; 38 of the planned 100 units are now available for Access I programmes and there are 68 units for Access II. Software is also to be developed to help pupils with special needs such as visual impairment and dyslexia.

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