Executive claims 'exam system is beginning to bounce back'

David Henderson & Neil Munro

AROUND 1,600 of the 135,000 candidates who sat National Qualifications were still affected by missing information this week, according to the Scottish Qualifications Authority. This compares with its figure of 2,480 last week and it remains confident the numbers will continue to drop between now and the issuing of certificates next Tuesday.

Ministers and the SQA are now entirely confident there will be no repeat of last year's debacle when 17,000 candidates were affected by inaccurate and incomplete information. The authority believes it knows precisely which details are absent for which candidates.

It has also alerted schools and colleges to results that are likely to raise eyebrows. Centres were set to receive results' data today (Friday) electronically and on a hard disk.

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said "the exam system is beginning to bounce back". However, ministers are far from euphoric that normality was only possible by "an exceptional effort this year that is not sustainable every year".

Even the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, which remained sceptical about delivery last week, has admitted the system has worked for 20,000 candidates hoping to gain entry to higher education this autumn. "There are no major problems," a spokeswoman said.

UCAS received results last Saturday and dispatched them to universities and colleges on Wednesday.

Certificates will be winging their way through the post on Tuesday no matter where students stay. Special assistance from postal services will ensure that those in the more remote island communities will receive their certificates at the same time as those on the mainland. Spot checks on the printing failed to detect any faults.

The SQA has also brusquely denied any elaborate fixing of results involving hundreds of candidates whose papers or details had gone missing. A weekend press report suggested a process known as "scaling" had undermined the results. Only nine candidates were affected.

Of the 1,600 candidates who have still to receive final certificates, around 700 appear to have sat and passed their exam without completing some or all of their internal assessments. Another 420 have been entered for all elements of their courses and passed the external exam, but the SQA has no results for one of their internal assessments.

A third group of 460 are having their external results rechecked.

The SQA will issue a letter to candidates with missing details explaining why they were not given with a full certificate. Bill Morton, chief executive, said: "We are continuing to make good progress on the very small number of candidate queries outlined last week and we will continue to work with schools and colleges to bring that number down even further."

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David Henderson & Neil Munro

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