Ministers should pick up the tab

6th February 2004 at 00:00
The Scottish Qualifications Authority was never going to win over hearts and minds in convincing its stakeholders that exam charges must go up. For the first major decision announced since Anton Colella took over as chief executive, it was not the ideal public relations platform. The overheated reaction suggests the SQA presented a fait accompli. There was, to put it mildly, an element of surprise. The SQA may not be required to consult but it makes political sense to do so.

There is little doubt that it is providing a better service, that course inflation since Higher Still has added considerably to the authority's costs and that even the increased tariff rates still compare favourably with south of the border. But it is one thing to move nearer "a more realistic charging regime", as the Education Minister wants, and quite another to load hefty increases on to exam fees in a bid to break even, as the SQA wants.

Perhaps the Executive and the SQA will have to move more slowly and recognise that local authorities for one still need to be convinced they are getting a better service. The minister himself, in his statement last week, seemed less than certain that there has been adequate consultation.

In the meantime, the Executive should pick up the tab: after all, its policies have largely been responsible for fuelling the SQA's costs.

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