For the pupils' sake have faith

27th April 2001 at 01:00
Teachers need to show confidence, not add to the usual examination worries, Raymond Ross hears.

There has been far too much SQA bashing going on in the media, argues Kirkcudbright Academy's rector, Dugald Forbes. "I'm not championing the Scottish Qualifications Authority. I'm championing the pupils," he says.

"In this area we are having terrible problems with the foot and mouth outbreak, which affects all of our pupils in one way or another. The last thing they need is to be told there's a problem with the SQA. For the pupils' sake we need to present a confident front.

"Last year the SQA got it wrong. They have made their apologies. Apologies accepted, but no more, please," he says.

"At this stage in the proceedings things are going fine and we have to show faith with the SQA, otherwise pupils will face their exams in a less than positive manner."

Mr Forbes argues that the SQA has done a lot to put things right and to help breed that confidence.

"Paperwork coming back has been accurate and the appointment of accounts managers for individual schools has given a face to the SQA and ours has been very good, always giving a quick and efficient response.

"We should look upon the SQA as colleagues. A lot of teachers work for them on exam teams and as individual markers, bringing a lot of epertise and knowledge to the job.

"In past years the system has acquitted itself to the point of international renown. We have to hope last year was a one-off blip. We put it down to teething problems, a mixture of human and computer error, and that is what we should be telling pupils.

"Pupils are worried, especially S6 ones who went through last year's mess.

"Teachers are working incredibly hard - they have to - and they have to maintain confidence. If they don't, then how will the pupils?

"The media coverage is beginning to take its toll on the pupils. Even if the SQA is getting things right, the coverage in both broadsheets and tabloids is still negative. That feeds into parents, the parents talk, and it feeds into the pupils. That in itself is damaging at a time when pupils need to have faith that the process will be right," says Mr Forbes.

But if "faith, hope and charity" in and towards the SQA is the mantra of the moment, that faith will have to be justified and the hope fulfilled. Otherwise, come August, the limits of charity will be severely tested.

If your school is experiencing problems, or great improvements, with the SQA, please email details to or write to Scotland Plus, TES Scotland, Scott House, 10 South St Andrew Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AZ

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