Text YES and get your results early

5th August 2005 at 01:00
Not for some the anxious wait for the sound of their exam results dropping through the letter-box next Tuesday.

Instead, their mobile phone will be saying: "UV PSD" - well, hopefully that will be the message.

For the first time, the Scottish Qualifications Authority will be texting results direct to the mobile phones of a small volunteer group of candidates this year - at Anderson High in Shetland, Kirkwall Grammar in Orkney, the Nicolson Institute on Lewis and Portree High on Skye.

The SQA believes this may be the first step towards a new era in delivering results.

The volunteers have registered to take part in the pilot, and a full security protocol has been set up between individual candidates and the SQA to guarantee that the right results go to the right person, at the right time.

The protocol also establishes agreed text abbreviations for subjects, level of qualification and, most importantly, actual result details. The SQA first sends the message: "Ready to text your results. Please reply YES to this message to receive them."

Once a positive reply has been received, the SQA will send results between 1pm and 3pm on Monday, a day earlier than normal.

The authority will wait several days before contacting pilot candidates to ascertain how - or if - the new method should be taken forward. "We feel it is important that we use technology to make our work more accessible," Chris Martin, its head of IT, said. "Texting is becoming second nature, to young people in particular, so we felt we should explore this option."

Meanwhile, it emerged in the past week that the SQA has been forced to disqualify 109 candidates for using mobile phones in their exams. They will receive a "no award", which they can appeal against or opt to sit the exam again next year. Results from course units are not affected.

The possibility of mobile phones being used to store or retrieve data means they are specifically prohibited. "If you are found in possession of a mobile phone or any other electronic device, or if you take this equipment into the room and it beeps or rings, your examination entry will be cancelled," the SQA guide warns pupils.

The figures, released under freedom of information legislation, also show that 519 candidates were reported to the SQA for alleged malpractice, including the use of phones, unauthorised notes and other aids.

An SQA spokesperson said there was an overriding responsibility to maintain standards, "which made it even more disappointing when we end up having to penalise candidates in what could be avoidable circumstances".

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