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Glitches give schools the jitters

Schools are not yet convinced the Scottish Qualifications Authority is on top of its problems, despite the internal changes and ministerial commitments to avoid another disaster.

Teachers are continuing to find difficulties liaising with the authority and processing vital information, some months before schools begin to enter details on unit assessments in whatever form is finally agreed.

"The number of staff expressing doubts is not diminishing," Alex McKay, Fife's head of education, told councillors. "It should be a matter of considerable concern to the SQA management that all schools, in general, are not yet convinced that all the necessary steps have been taken to ensure that the 2001 diet will go smoothly."

A similar message emerged this week from East Dunbartonshire. Eric Gotts, education convener, warned: "The SQA has still not got its act together. I await with some trepidation to see how it will cope with the net stage of the process - the transmission of internal assessment data. This will be a major test of whether it can begin to restore its confidence with the pupils and teachers."

A survey of the council's nine secondaries reveals continuing problems in checking candidates' data on printouts. "Pupil names are not used, only candidate numbers, and courses are not named, only codes are used. This causes an enormous amount of extra work for co-ordinators and, because it is complicated, it could result in more errors being created. As well as this, the co-ordinators have found it difficult to work out the exact nature of the error in some cases," the authority states.

It also found schools are not yet able to process changes in levels and are unhappy about failing to get through to the SQA when they need advice. "There is considerable concern regarding the degree of slippage in the time-scale," East Dunbartonshire says.

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