Marking time, thanks to Parcelforce

FOR a fair number of us, this is when we divide ourselves into those who have faith in the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the Doubting Thomas division who will continue to feel the fear until every last result is safely delivered.

Still, we accept that the task is a mammoth one and that the odd wee wobble is inevitable.

I say all of this not as a precursor to another tirade against an SQA which has maybe attracted more than its share of mishaps and mistakes, but as a reminder that there are still problems with the successful delivery of Higher Still through the vehicle of the SQA. I have been doing a spot of marking this year.

There has been no problem with the actual marking, I must reassure all stakeholders. However, I'm sorry to say that for 10 days I felt like the persecuted minority of some backwater state. The actual delivery of the scripts was a nightmare. The story went something like this.

One Thursday morning, Parcelforce attempted to deliver my scripts. Problem number one - I wasn't in my house. Why not? Just a small point really, but I am a full-time teacher and therefore I was in my classroom attempting to do a bit of educating.

Nevertheless, the Parcelforce driver had helpfully deposited the usual postcard and so I phoned to make arrangements to pick up the scripts at the local post office the following afternoon.

No luck the next afternoon - the scripts weren't there. The post office advised me to go home and phone Parcelforce. Guess what? Lurking behind my door was another postcard inviting me to telephone Parcelforce to yet again make arrangements to pick up my marking.

I don't think that it was perverse of me to feel most annoyed that delivery number two had been attempted during the school day even after I had explained the futility of the act. Buck passing. Parcelforce informed me that the new rule from the SQA was that marking must be delivered to the marker's house between 9am and 4pm and there was no chance of collecting the marking from a local post office.

Elgin was a little difficult, it was then explained to me by the nice lady from Parcelforce - off the beaten track, you see. I was beginning to feel spiteful in between feeling incredulous and panic stricken. Would I ever get the marking? Should I hide the metal cutlery?

It was a May holiday weekend. No one was answering the phones at the SQA. Probably just as well because I was now feeling a persistence bordering on hysteria.

When I finally did manage to speak to someone she eventually asked: how would an evening delivery suit you? Yes, but why wasn't I offered that in the first place? Well, we didn't think it was going to be that much of a problem but we've now had loads of undelivered scripts returned because teachers do seem to be out teaching all day. Wow, what do you know? Teachers teaching!

The agreed evening date passed and no scripts had arrived. Further calls moved the date and time to the next Saturday between the hours of 10am and 3pm. We sat in the house waiting to go on a family outing. At 10 minutes past midday, the doorbell rang. The guy from Parcelforce might have been collecting rock samples so inscrutable was his expression.

I signed some weird kind of electronic notebook for him which indicated my acceptance of the scripts. Then I thought, I have got to put this to the back of my mind - which is what I thought I had done until I sat down to write this column.

But it wasn't a tirade, was it? More of a crack of a twig in a dark forest but enough to make me a little fearful for the safe delivery of my pupils'

and my daughter's results.

Marj Adams teaches religious education, philosophy and psychology at Forres Academy.

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