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High-tech SQA hitches spur apology

THE SCOTTISH Qualifications Authority has apologised to schools for technological problems with the processing of this year's SCE examinations, but has emphatically denied there is any risk to pupils.

Claims in the Herald by Ann Hill, chief executive of the Scottish School Board Association, who is an SQA board member, that the exam system was in "meltdown" were rejected by Ron Tuck, the authority's chief executive.

Mr Tuck said he was not able to comment on Mrs Hill's claims, although they would investigate individual complaints to discover whether the problems stemmed from the SQA or "idiosyncrasies" in individual schools.

The SQA has introduced a major new integrated administrative and IT system to replace the separate ones used by its two predecessor bodies. Its Ingres software package is compatible with the Phoenix and SEEMIS systems used by Scottish schools, but Mr Tuck said it was inevitable that such a complex operation introduced in a very short time would throw up teething problems.

He sai some procedures were running late, for example the forms which schools need to pass on internal assessment results to the SQA were delayed, as were some estimates of pupil performance following the prelims. Entries across all Standard grade, Higher and CSYS subjects are running at levels the authority would expect, so any problems are more likely to be local, he added.

But Mr Tuck denied Mrs Hill's assertion that pupils might not be able to sit exams. "It is utterly untrue to say there is any risk to pupils. In the first place there is plenty of time to correct any errors before the exams. And secondly, it has been long-standing practice that invigilators are instructed to give out exam papers to anyone who turns up on the day whether they are on the invigilator's list or not."

The other work of the SQA which goes on throughout the year, in processing the results from National Certificates and Higher National Units and converting them into certificates, is proceeding smoothly, Mr Tuck pointed out.

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