Muddling along

23rd March 2001 at 00:00
Even if the messages about the forthcoming exams are mixed, they are disturbing. Uncertainty brings worry and a lack of focus. Are some pupils going to assume that an administrative debacle again lies ahead and cease heeding their teachers' advice about study and concentration? The Scottish Qualifications Authority has tried to show the problems as well as the progress. It decided to postpone the results by a week and revealed that it is still short of markers (though on nothing like the scale this time last year). Yet inevitably its frankness is turned by the media into a forecast of disaster.

The Parliament's education committee, which rightly is keeping an eye on things, brought forward its latest (not very informative) inquisiion of the SQA's chief executive. Hiccups in the flow of information are still occurring. Schools are complaining of mistakes and delays. But our week-by-week survey in ScotlandPlus does not suggest impending crisis. The main worries centre on the assumption that the greatly increased volume of Higher Still presentations this year (including Advanced level) is bound to intensify problems and that the SQA should have listened to calls for simplified procedures and certificates.

Come August each and every mistake is bound to be reported and magnified. Before last year any minor flaws in a system coping with hundreds of thousands of scripts went unrecorded. There will be no shelter for the SQA this time, nor for ministers.

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