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Minor bumps in the road but no upsets

Raymond Ross discovers a wrong maths paper and a wrong batch of marking

A series of "minor" glitches with the Scottish Qualifications Authority have not yet disturbed the equilibrium of Gerry Docherty, headteacher of Grangemouth High in Falkirk.

These glitches include one of his teachers, who is an exam marker, being sent one of the school's own Standard grade maths candidate's papers to mark and another being sent Higher biology multiple choice scripts rather than the written scripts he was contracted to mark. Yet another glitch was discovering inside the Standard grade maths paper 2 envelope just the questions for paper 1.

"The latter may have been the invigilator's responsibility but, whatever the case, the exam was delayed for 15 minutes until we got duplicates," says Mr Docherty.

He describes these occurrences as "relatively minor" blips and says he has no real feeling that things are running at all badly.

"Things seem to be running more or less on target and there is an honesty from the SQA this year. I've every reason to believe things will go smoothly and the pupils are OK about it."

However, last year's fiasco has left him feeling cheated. "I feel cheated because we spent a greatpart of the start of this session looking back. Last year was actually a success for us, especially the introduction of Intermediate 2, but that got completely lost in the uproar over the SQA delivery."

He has no complaints about the appeals system, except that he is still waiting for a pupil's Higher art folio to be returned, despite repeated requests.

Grangemouth High staff, he says, are still "sore" about the amount of internal assessment eating into teaching, revision and exam preparation time. He describes the 40 hours allocated to the task as "a black hole into which everything seems to disappear".

Deferred assessments are also troubling him. "The SQA are allowing pupils to sit exams this year and then catch up with any outstanding unit assessments they'll still need for a pass next session. It's a situation that could be misconstrued, especially by the press, who might present incomplete certificates as an SQA failing.

"It's come about because of the pressure of numbers, because there are so many people doing so many assessments."

He is undecided about whether deferred assessments are a good thing. "It's a bit like my endowment policy. I'll tell you when it matures," he says.

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