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Island results go out online

Students from some of the most remote islands of Scotland are to be the first to receive their exam results online next week.

The 400 young people in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles are testing out an online exams result system which the Scottish Qualifications Authority hopes to develop from October this year for the rest of the country.

The development comes as the English exam board Edexcel announced that a small number of A-level and GCSE maths candidates would receive their results online and be able to view their marked paper for the first time this summer.

The island candidates, who volunteered to take part in the SQA pilot, will receive their results online on Monday - a day earlier than everyone else who will have to wait for the traditional envelope to drop through the letter-box.

The online system - SQA Results On-Line - is accessed by candidates using unique identifier codes and passwords. The SQA then notifies them that their results are ready, by text message or email, allowing them to log on to a secure website to view their own results.

This project follows an experiment last year, carried out in the same remote areas, when candidates could opt to receive their results by text message. That option is again being offered this year in the same areas following the popularity of last year's trial.

Among other online developments being used for the first time in this year's exams diet are online assessment and online marking.

Candidates from seven centres - Dollar Academy, Jordanhill School, Dundee College, Paisley Grammar, Lasswade High, Perth College and Nairn Academy - were able to sit their biotechnology objective test, a multiple choice exam, online, at Higher and Intermediate 2 levels.

Markers also used new online technology when more than 115 submitted marks online in four subjects at Higher level and three at Advanced Higher level.

Anton Colella, the SQA's chief executive, said: "When you consider the scale of our operation - 2.5 million marks, almost a quarter of a million entries, it is easy to see that technology can help us become even more efficient in the future. However, we are taking all of these steps carefully and slowly, with each new development being thoroughly tested before we introduce it."

Jim Docherty, depute general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers'

Association, said his union would not be happy to see any extension of online assessment because of significant security concerns and called for full trials and monitoring.

"There has always been a security issue surrounding any examination paper prior to the date of the examination, but there would now be two forms or mechanisms by which the exams could be intercepted prior to their being given to candidates, instead of one," Mr Docherty said.

Online assessment also posed concerns - no matter how computer literate the current generation was. His main concern was that there should be safeguards for those who misread instructions and filled in the wrong answers.

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