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Getting better

Raymond Ross takes his weekly look at the Scottish Qualifications Authority exams. Today, Alloa Academy gives its views on the system

In August last year, Alloa Academy in Clackmannanshire put in three times the number of exam result appeals to the Scottish Qualifications Authority that it would normally have, but this is not a situation which assistant rector Norman Dawson expects to arise this time round.

Experience so far suggests rising confidence in SQA management skills, the SQA communications system and a more realistic timetable which, hopefully, argues Mr Dawson, should see more reliable as well as punctual first-time results.

"The only glitch so far has been with Advanced Highers which we are doing for the first time this year.

"We put in all Higher data on time, candidates' names and courses, in December but when the error reports came back we found that Advanced Higher candidates had been put in only for individual units and not for the exam. However, I have to say that the SQA account manager for our school sorted this out very quickly."

The appointment of account managers, as a single SQA point of contact for individual schools, is "a good idea which works - a big plus" in Mr Dawson's book.

"From a management point of view, having ne contact is a vast improvement on last year and SQAschool communications have improved greatly as a result," he says.

The revamped timetable, effectively giving schools an extra month to lodge their final unit assessments, has also eased in-school pressure.

"No great problems have been reported so far. No one among the staff or the pupils has been jumping up and down crying for help," he says.

Experience last year, however, has led Alloa to drop from a six to a five-column timetable to give extra time for teaching.

"It means an extra period, six instead of five per week, for each subject. This was as a result of concerns, particularly from maths, that with unit assessments and so forth there wasn't time to teach thoroughly. It's too early to say, but we hope this strategy will show up positively in the results."

While assessments are on-going, Alloa also staggers its prelims over seven Mondays in February and March, and with three report cards going out each session, staff can monitor progress and spot potential problems.

"I would say that staff confidence in the SQA is generally much higher and most regard SQA's putting back exam announcements by a week as realistic. Yes, we're fairly confident things will run smoothly this time."

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