SQA 'sergeant-majors' to stiffen the ranks

6th April 2001 at 01:00
The newly created post of head of communications, human resources and customer relations at the Scottish Qualifications Authority, arguably the most thankless and testing job in Scottish education, has gone to Amanda Cornish, currently head of marketing.

She is one of three new general managers whose appointment was announced this week to beef up the senior management of the organisation and lift some of the burden from the 21 unit heads.

An SQA insider is also to take charge of the award processing system which was at the heart of last year's difficulties. Colin Urie, head of information technology, is to be general manager for information services which will give him the unenviable task of getting the software support for examinations right.

The organisation has gone outside its own ranks for the general manager responsible for finance - Malcolm Gaston has worked with the National Audit Office, KPMG and Pricewaterhousecoopers.

Four other general manager posts have still to be filled.

Bill Morton, the SQA's chief executive, said that the extra layer of management was intended to help the authority operate more smoothly. Mr Morton confirmed that his time-scale envisaged it would take three years for the SQA to function "ina manner that embraces best practice and technology".

The SQA also announced this week it has sacked an IT consultant who has been in the job for barely a month. The Daily Record claimed it heard David Ashton telling customers in the bar of the County Hotel, near the SQA offices in Dalkeith, that this year's exams crisis would be worse than last year's.

The SQA says Mr Ashton has now declared that he believes the exam diet can be delivered "without problems", but it has decided his earlier comments were a breach of contract.

The SQA said in a statement: "It is important to stress that IT systems within the SQA were subject to three separate, rigorous investigations following last year's well-documented problems. All three inquiries found that the information technology systems worked both effectively and to the specification asked of them."

Meanwhile the Scottish Executive has announced it is to pay local authorities pound;785,736 to compensate for additional costs incurred last year.

Jack McConnell, the Education Minister, gave the details to Brian Monteith, the Tories' education spokesman. The cash has been allocated according to the number of schools and pupils in each authority.

Lib Dems train sights, page 6

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