Thumbs-up from relieved heads

17th August 2001 at 01:00
Raymond Ross revisits some of the schools that took part in our SQAwatch series last session to see whether their hopes - and fears - were realised

* Gerry Docherty, head of Grangemouth High.

"It all appears to be perfectly straightforward. Individual results suggest that the SQA has delivered and delivered clearly. The SQA has carried out its job professionally. Unfinished unit work is made clear and our grades are pretty much as expected. We targeted some pupils to raise attainment and that clearly shows in the results.

"One concern I do have, though it may sound perverse, is that while hard-pressed teachers will welcome the announcement that assessment will be simplified this session, this will not necessarily be an easy thing to achieve because there are no global rules, no uniform methods of assessment across all the subjects.

"It is also hard for teachers to start courses knowing the assessment will change at some point.

"But I'm relieved and at ease with the SQA and the results."

* Susan Smith, head of Arran High

"Generally things have gone a lot better this year but we still have one subject in which we seem to be under-performing since the new system began. We are waiting for more detailed feedback from the SQA and then we will compare our results with other North Ayrshire schools to see if it's just us or an SQA blip.

"We lost one set of papers in the post (Parcelforce) covering Higher home economics and Advanced Higher French and maths. This was not the SQA's doing, but the exams were all sat on May 28 and we were not informed papers were missing until last Monday (August 6).

"If they had let us know by the end of term we could have forwarded prelim results and post-prelim work so that estimated results would have reached us by now. The SQA must have some kind of logging system to spot things like this much earlier."

* Tony Gavin, head of St Margaret's Academy in Livingston

"Our electronic system isn't functioning fully at the moment so I don't have full information on pupils. I think we have more incomplete awards than expected and the SQA is being very helpful as we begin to check these out.

"Overall, our Higher results are better than last year's but I will be more content when I know how many of these 'incompletes' are genuine because of unfinished internal assessments or whatever. The SQA's performance has been much, much better this year and I am far more confident now for the coming year."

* Graham Herbert, head of Lockerbie Academy

"We have had no problems with results. Everything has come in on time and our SQA accounts manager has given instant answers to any queries. There have been no obvious signs of disadvantage to our pupils who have missed out on some of their education because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak and the SQA was considerate regarding assessing absentee candidates.

"I am optimistic for this year but obviously the present system is unsustainable in the long run. You can't ask markers and SQA staff to keep going that extra mile indefinitely. We need to streamline assessment and, although the idea of three-year contracts for markers should help, there are too many teachers out for too many days on assessment.

"The SQA has requested four of our staff for appeals, meaning they will be out of school for three or four days each on average. This disadvantages our pupils.

"So, while we have been happy to prop up the SQA for a couple of years, it can't really be sustained."

* Marian Docherty, head of St Thomas of Aquin's High in Edinburgh

"We are sorting out some anomalies - a number of blanks, not failures, just blanks. So we will have to get the SQA to sort these out. But there is really no comparison with last year although, to be honest, it couldn't be worse than last year."

* Allan Sinclair, assistant head at Kings Park Secondary in Glasgow

"The results arrived on time and everything seems to be all right. It has gone smoothly and we are happy with that. Last year we had particular problems with internal assessments which the SQA said they hadn't received electronically. So our janitor kindly took them through to Dalkeith. But nothing like that has occurred this year.

* Iain Ballantine, head of Kirkwall Grammar in Orkney

"I am cautiously happy. Our results look up on last year's and everything came in on time but we have still to do a thorough check through assessment data. A small number of inaccuracies have been pointed out to us by the SQA, failures to record internal assessments which affect a couple of candidates who are entering university. But they have been informed their results are incomplete and reassured they have passed.

"There's been a definite improvement in communications with the SQA and I am confident for the new session and for proposed changes regarding internal assessment.

"Teachers are keen to see some streamlining of the system."

* George Haggarty, head of St John's High in Dundee

"The SQA has been ahead of schedule and should be congratulated. They have done a good job and the information through to us is full and thorough. It's a major step in restoring confidence in the system.

"Higher Still is proving a success. It's serving the wider school population and, just as importantly, it is a transparent system where candidates can see how well they have performed and why.

"Internal assessment is proving a contributory factor to pupil motivation and success, so we have to be careful about simplifying it. We need more than a paper consultation on options because we must maintain the quality of internal assessment.

"We also need to reduce the burden on SQA co-ordinators. The pressure is not sustainable."

* Karen Prophet, assistant head at Peebles High

"We are very happy with the results. Things have gone absolutely fine. We are confident the results are accurate and believe that the cross-checking system in the SQA is much better than last year. Results are in line with what we would have expected."

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