The SQA must go

22nd September 2000 at 01:00
IN the calamity wrought by the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the greatest catastrophe is that the enviable and fully justified reputation for probity that the Scottish Examination Board had built up over decades of professional excellence is totally destroyed. The SQA cannot hope ever to have credibility. It is utterly disgraced.

I find it remarkable that Ian Finlay (TESS, September 8) seems unaware that some of this disgrace had to be accepted by the politicians who appointed the highest executive tier of the SQA. I still recall the chill with which I read that the top two posts were not to be filled from the highly respected SEB.

I believe that the only hope is for the SQA to be formally disbanded by the Scottish Executive and replaced by the "Scottish Examinations Board 2001". This would consist of as many as possible former SEB executives and markers. Some will be irretrievable for arious reasons, but every effort should be made to coax back as many as possible.

In the mid-nineties I was convener of the education committee of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Association and took considerable responsibility for our welcoming the broad thrust of Higher Still. But, and the cliche is unavoidable, the devil was in the detail.

That was principally twofold. First the timing: all the teachers, both in schools and colleges, told the Government that they were trying to do it too fast and far too cheaply. Far more staff would be needed, and that means funded. Second, the complexity of bumf - there is no better word - produced by the SQA in the last 15 months was mind-blowing.

Higher Still, in my view, should be programmed to start gradually, and only when calmly perfected, perhaps in 2005, perhaps 2010.

CC Stirling-Whyte

Hainburn Park, Edinburgh

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