Watchdog will not bark over exams

The official information watchdog has made it clear he will not be intervening to force the Scottish Executive to publish school exam results in their previous form.

For the second year running, the results were issued this week separately for each school on the Scottish Schools Online website, rather than as a central set of tables. The Executive hoped the move would stop newspapers compiling league tables, but this once again proved forlorn (with the rare exception of The TESS).

Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, is due to take on his full powers on January 1, including the right to compel public bodies to disclose information.

But he said the Scottish Executive would not be asked to make the exam results available in the form as before, which is done now only for education authority and national averages.

Under section 25 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act, requests for additional information do not have to be met if it is already accessible.

"You couldn't expect public officials to spend time doing that kind of work for individuals," Mr Dunion said. "The Act is not intended to have people do the legwork that individuals are perfectly capable of doing for themselves."

Mr Dunion added: "The reality is that far more information is in the public domain about schools than ever before. I have checked the Scottish Schools Online website and, apart from the general information there, you can link to the websites for each school and get even more information.

"It's a pretty remarkable search engine compared to what we had before, and it would be churlish not to recognise that."

Figures released by the Executive revealed that 127,864 people had logged on to the Scottish Schools Online website in the year since its launch, an average of more than 10,000 a month.

Peter Peacock, the Education MInister, welcomed the fact that the website could provide "rounded information" about schools, not just exam results.

He hoped it would further strengthen links between parents and schools.

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