The buck stops here

1st September 2000 at 01:00
SAM Galbraith's position is untenable. Either he took steps to monitor what was happening with the SQA and the exams, in which case he could not possibly have missed the fact that teachers were concerned, and that there were problems related to communication with the SQA, or else he took no steps whatsoever to reassure himself that the necessary progress was being made. The buck stops with the Minister and it is no excuse to blame advisers.

Politicians need to get to know the way their advisers work and consider what sort of questions should be asked and of whom. Advisers should also take care to give advice, even if it is not what politicians want to hear. It seems as if in the case of Higher Still, there may also have been complacency among advisers, a very dangerous situation for a politician.

If the Higher Still Development Unit, the HMI and the SQA had been prepared to consider the possible consequencs of not meeting the deadline for results earlier, at least an honest advance warning that some students might not get their results as early as expected, might have prepared the way and minimised concern amongst the rest. It might also have been possible to divert resources to ensuring that the results of university applicants were prioritised over those returning to school. This might even have minimised the number of individuals adversely affected.

It would also have impressed everyone with the honesty and openness of government. Then at least the public relations damage done when the Minister gave misleading and complacent responses to the press would have been avoided and perhaps his position would have been different. Sam Galbraith has had a difficult year and should go now to allow someone else to restore confidence in the system.

Janet Law

Blackford Lodge, Blackford


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