WEDNESDAY is the next crucial test for the embattled Scottish Qualifications Authority which has pledged to issue decisions on "urgent" appeals from 5,525 Higher candidates and 599 Certificate of Sixth Year Studies pupils who are waiting to confirm college or university places.
Evidence to back "non-urgent" Higher and CSYS appeals has to be submitted to the SQA by Monday. This process will begin on September 25 with a deadline of October 31 for issuing results.
But the SQA is wary of setting a time-scale for clearing Standard grade and Intermediate appeals until it knows the volume of traffic. A spokeswoman said the process might not be completed until Christmas, "but we hope it won't take that long".
One leading director of education said that making pupils wait until they were halfway through fifth year before receiving their final Standard grade results would be "totally unacceptable".
The Scottish Executive is conducting a survey to determine how many Standard grade and Intermediate appeals are likely to be received.
Returns from all 32 authorities contacted by the Association of Directors of Education show a total of 32,657 Higher and CSYS appeals from state schools. The SQA expects another 8,000 to come from the independent sector and further education colleges.
The working assumption is that there could be 60,000 Standard grade appeals and 20,000 at Intermediate level, giving a grand total of 120,00 appeals compared with last year's 47,627.
Around 1,000 teachers, advisers and college lecturers - 300 more than normal - are standing by to form appeals panels, working during the school day, in the evening and at weekends to minimise disruption to classes and speed up the process.
The Executive will meet whatever bill is necessary, including the costs of supply teachers. All new members of appeals teams will receive training.
A letter from the Executive this week reminds heads and college principals that "appeals can be made for any candidate who has not achieved their estimated grade" and makes it clear that "an appeal will only be rejected after consideration of the evidence and review of the examination script". Last year 54 per cent of appeals were turned down.
This year's appeals process is being monitored in an unprecedented move by the ADES's office-bearers - Keir Bloomer, president, Gordon Jeyes, general secretary, John Mulgrew, vice-president, and Michael O'Neill, past president. They will interview SQA staff and principal assessors, visit schools and carry out spot checks covering pupils, subjects and schools.
Mr Jeyes told The TES Scotland he was confident the system would be able to handle the volume of appeals but the association remained "agnostic" at this stage on whether the SQA's standards and quality assurance system was up to the mark.
Leader, page 20
FE Focus, page 37