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Up to the mark

THERE is now clearly an attempt to keep any blame for the Scottish Qualifications Authority's problems away from the schools. That explains the ripostes by teachers to claims that exam marking was fallible and therefore pupils cannot depend on the accuracy of their grades even with the SQA's data handling problems cleared up.

The allegations rife last week were about delays in recruiting underpaid markers, overreliance on inexperi- enced teachers and a rushed process.

Denials on television by Bill Morton, the SQA's acting chief executive, appeared to be giving a fresh hostage to fortune.

But teachers who were markers are coming to the defence of their own practice, if not to that of the SQA, which has still to pay many of them.

Principal subject assessors such as Jim Page in physics (page four) are especially concerned to set the record straight. The fear is that i criticism of the SQA and the Executive spreads to other parts of the system, teacher professionalism will be called in question.

When it comes to setting exams and marking them, those responsible for preparing pupils are key figures. Involve- ment with exams gives teachers a better understanding of what is being looked for and therefore makes them better professionals. A few hundred extra pounds hard earned at the end of a draining school session and into the holidays is not the main incentive.

Mr Morton promises a shake-up y and possibly a shake-out y at the SQA. If teachers can show that they played their part conscientiously and meticulously in a very difficult year, the prospects of rapidly re-establishing the credibility of the exams and of the SQA will be much enhanced. In the world of education, if not yet among politi- cians, that has to be the priority.

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