SQA board 'frightened'

8th December 2000 at 00:00
THE EDUCATION committee report is unsparing in its criticisms of how the former SQA board discharged its responsibilities.

The report says it was "surprised" and found it "quite astounding" that the key finance, planning and general purposes committee of the board met so infrequently - only twice from last November until after the crisis broke in August.

"Given that the first ever certification of Higher Still and the commissioning of the awards processing (software) system were to take place during this period, it is not only surprising but inexcusable that the SQA's board and chairman lost control of the situation."

No board action was minuted following its meeting in late June despite it being informed of continuing data problems. The education committee found this "an extraordinary state of affairs" particularly since Ron Tuck, the former chief executive, was alerting the Scottish Executive within five days tht major problems were arising.

The committee said it was "quite extraordinary" that the SQA's chairman's committee did not meet specifically to discuss the looming problems. It was "inexplicable" that David Miller, the chairman, did not convene his committee while the board as a whole were "less than diligent" in pursuing concerns which had been signalled to them.

"All the evidence points to an organisation which in part did not believe that it could ever fail, which was desperate to avoid failure at any price and was frightened lest it be seen to be unable to deliver the tasks and responsibilities with which it had been charged," the report says.

The SQA failed to be "frank, honest and straightforward" in admitting its problems and caused more damage in doing so. Its internal and external communications were "woefully wanting" and this must be redressed if the authority's credibility is to be restored.

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