Colin MacLean, the highly regarded civil servant who was formerly depute senior chief inspector of schools, is being seconded from the Scottish Executive as national co-ordinator. He will be expected to ensure that all the key players pull together to deliver the exams.
The Executive has also announced the secondment of another high-flying official to beef up the management of the Scottish Qualifications Authority. Brian Naylor, a director with Historic Scotland, will help the organisation "keep up the momentum of change and improvement already taking place".
The ranks of the SQA's senior management are also being swelled by a depute headteacher and a senior further education manager. Two business analysts and a consultant are joining the authority's IT team. The SQA itself recently appointed three new general managers to take charge of communications and human resources, IT and finance.
The Executive was at pains to stress that the moves have been agreed with the SQA. "It is not intended to imply any lack of confidence in the management of the SQA but simply a strengtheing of the management and reinforcement of ongoing improvements," a spokeswoman said.
Ministerial nervousness about this year's exams is none the less reflected in the fact that the co-ordinator's first job will be to ensure there are sufficient markers. The SQA needs 8,800 markers and expects to be able to announce in the next few days that it has the number required.
Mr MacLean, who became head of the schools group within the Executive following the reorganisation of the Inspectorate, will report directly to Jack McConnell, Education Minister. The idea of such an appointment was first mooted last year by Henry McLeish when he was the Lifelong Learning Minister and had official responsibility for the SQA.
The new supremo has been given a virtually free hand to bring about "joined-up" delivery of the exams. In addition to recruiting markers, this involves effective flow of information between the SQA, schools and other centres, planning for this year's exams diet, including appeals, testing the IT systems, and effective communication with candidates.
Mr McConnell has ordered his officials to make delivering a successful exam diet their top priority.
Leader, page 20