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Glitches still cause for worry

Communications have improved but punctuality has not, Dyce Academy tells Raymond Ross.

Communications skills at the Scottish Qualifications Authority have improved but its interim report from Dyce Academy in Aberdeen criticises its lack of punctuality about handing in work and failure to correct old errors.

"Things are better than last year but there is a lot still to be sorted out," says headteacher Mike Taylor.

"There are still a lot of errors in the registration documentation coming back from the SQA and there are still entries errors from last term to be amended. It's not on last year's scale, when most of it was wrong, but it's still more than you would expect in a normal year."

However you might define "a normal year" in SQA terms, Mr Taylor believes the authority has worked hard to sort out its difficulties but he remains "not totally confident" in the situation or its abilities.

"We are still getting some documentation from the SQA late. To give a worrying example: the Standard grade drama practical assignment was due in February and only arrived last week.

"I notice that they say they will not charge this year for late entries or late withdrawals. I think there is a tacit acceptance of responsibility here, an admission that things are not going quite to plan.

"Also, we still had an outstanding appeal last week - a second appeal from last year"

Last year's late exam results fiasco was not the horror story for the school that others experienced, says Mr Taylor. The main problem was pupils receiving their results two and three days before the school. "We had to get the results from the pupils. It caused confusion and irritation.

"Most pupils were reasonably happy with their results but weren't sure how confident they could be in their accuracy."

With a school roll of 520, this year Dyce Academy is presenting around 100 candidates for Standard grades and a similar number for Highers.

Unit assessments are "settling down", the end of April (rather than March) date for submissions is helpful, as is the one-to-one communication system with the SQA.

Although Mr Taylor sees no comparison with the scale of last year's problems, he believes the concerns he raises are worrying enough. "Last year there must have been people in the SQA who knew how bad things really were but chose to keep quiet. I just hope the culture in the SQA is more open and that people will speak up if they see similar things happening.

"In one year we can't expect perfection but these wrinkles are worrying."

If your school is experiencing difficulties or great improvements with the SQA, please e-mail details to Scotlandplus@tes.co.uk or write to Scotland Plus, TES Scotland, 10 South St Andrews Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AZ

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