Minister holds fate of board that oversaw SQA fiasco

November 10, 2000

Jack McConnell, Scotland's new education minister, is taking legal advice on the fate of the Scottish Qualifications Authority's board.

All 24 members of the board offered their resignations last Friday at Mr McConnell's prompting, but so far he has accepted only the resignation of chairman David Miller. Scottish Homes chairman John Ward has been appointed interim chairman.

Mr McConnell, who is expected to name a new streamlined board in the new year, has promised to set up an "early-warning system", with a ministerial review group, to alert him to any lack of preparation for next year's examinations.

The SQA is still suffering the fallout from thousands of missing, incomplete or inaccurate exam results from this summer. Brian Monteith, Scottish Tory education spokesman, said: "A smaller, leaner, more dynamic board is required to refocus the organisation, get to the bottom of its management difficulties, and restore faith in Scotland's examination system."

Mr Monteith said the previous board had been shown to be too large and unwieldy. Given its membership, it was highly unlikely that it was unaware of anecdotal evidence of problems before the August exams crisis, but it was unable to hold senior managers to account, he said.

Mr McConnell said he was "appalled" by the scale of organisational failure, which was outlined in a consultant's report.

The report says there were many weaknesses and difficulties rather than one problem. This year, the Higher Still qualification, a single Scottish qualifications certificate, and a new computer system were introduced. But managers failed to assess the SQA's ability to implement changes quickly, to give staff training and support, or to report accurately on progress to the SQA board and Scottish Executive.

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