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Ministers move to keep markers on board

The 50 per cent increase in fees to markers of Scottish Qualifications Authority exams is a holding operation while the future structure of paying for the assessment process is reviewed.

The Education Minister, in announcing the rise in fees at a cost of pound;3 million to the Executive, this week set up a review for next and subsequent years involving the SQA, local authorities and further education colleges. It will be undertaken by the SQA and will report to Jack McConnell and John Ward, the SQA's chairman.

Mr McConnell said: "The 7,000 markers, moderators and members of examining teams at the SQA are a vital part of the exam process and I hope the increase will encourage teachers and lecturers to take on these key jobs."

Low fees contributedto the difficulties faced last year in recruiting markers. Payment can be as little as 80p a script, though some papers commanded an pound;8 fee. The average is about pound;1.50 and teachers can mark about three scripts an hour.

Costs are borne mainly by education authorities and colleges. In the past increases have proved difficult to negotiate. The SQA was given three years to balance its books after its foundation in 1997. It was due now to start budgeting for a surplus but that hope was thrown into disarray by last year's fiasco.

Mr McConnell said that the SQA would be reporting regularly to the Executive on marker recruitment. The exams early warning group met again this week chaired by Nicol Stephen, Deputy Minister.

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