The net result

8th June 2007 at 01:00
Waiting anxiously for exam results to be posted is old-fashioned; checking online is the modern way

AS THE recent elections showed, filling in forms is not always easy, especially if a computer has to read the results. So when the Scottish Qualifications Authority offered a new online results service to exam candidates at every school in the country, some did more than others to give their pupils a hand.

"It is fairly easy to register but that's not the point," says Jim Drennan, depute head at St Luke's High in East Renfrewshire. "We knew that if we just gave out the information a lot of kids wouldn't get around to it. It would end up at the bottom of busy schoolbags."

SQA's online results service was piloted last year in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. National exam candidates could learn how well they had done without waiting for the post. They got their results a day early through a secure login to an SQA website. There was also an option to receive these results by text messaging.

The success of the pilot led SQA this year to roll the service out to every school in Scotland. At St Luke's High more than 90 per cent of eligible pupils have registered, says Mr Drennan. "We took a structured approach.

Besides putting online results on the agenda at as-sembly, we organised a lesson about them from the PSHE teachers. Every pupil was taken to the computer room, where they were shown what it was about and how to register."

For schools, the appeal of online results is that it "takes the pressure off a significant number of kids", explains Mr Drennan. "At that time of year they're worried about when their results are going to come in, and whether they'll get the curriculum they have chosen. Many are away on holiday, so they can now get their results from anywhere in the world."

For the authority, there is more to it than that, says Martin Hughes, SQA's business manager (operations). "The key thing for us is that we are giving candidates access at any time they like to their full record. We get our information on candidates from the centres. So if, for any reason, we have inaccurate or incomplete information - and with that many candidates there are bound to be some errors - they can see it and check it, and make sure it gets corrected.

"It's about transparency. It's about giving people access to the data we hold on them."

Until now, candidates have had no opportunity to inspect and if necessary correct that data until their exam results drop through their door.

"To pass Higher maths, for instance, you need three unit assessments in addition to the exam. If SQA's information says someone has only passed two units, they wouldn't get their Higher. From now on, candidates will be able to correct any errors in plenty of time."

Another benefit of the system is that candidates on modular courses leading to qualifications such as the Higher National Diploma will be able to record and monitor their progress towards an award.

The system has been designed to cope with the numbers, even if the uptake from every school in Scotland is as high as it has been from St Luke's. But it won't be. "Registrations are coming in at the rate of 500 a day," says Mr Hughes. "The closing date to register to get online results for this year's exams is June 30."

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