Among the signs of trouble looming with last year's exams was the difficulty the Scottish Qualifications Authority had in recruiting markers. Concern about the new Higher Still may have contributed, and there was administrative muddle in ensuring that the right numbers were in place. But for many teachers, including those who recognise that external marking is a useful tool for their own in-school assessments, the payments were simply not worth the candle, especially as the exam process eats into the summer holidays.
The Executive, desperate to avoid a repetition of last year's problems, has taken early action to create a beter market. Fees are to be given a 50 per cent hike at a cost of pound;3 million. The injection of cash is welcome because the previously low rates reflected the SQA's inability to persuade the local authorities (as presenters of the majority of candidates) to raise their contributions significantly.
Despite the new incentive, there must be a lurking worry. Teachers have had their fill of the SQA. They remain sceptical about its performance this session. Will they spurn the opportunity to mark? Hopefully not, since recovery of exam credibility has to involve more than those who were responsible for creating the problems.