Missing appeals unknown to chief

November 3, 2000

Bill Morton, acting head of the troubled Scottish Qualifications Authority, this week confessed that he had not known of its latest failure to meet deadlines, writes Olga Wojtas.

The SQA has been processing almost 41,000 appeals in the wake of this summer's fiasco, when thousands of examination results turned out to be missing, incomplete or inaccurate.

It had pledged to complete all "non-urgent" Highers appeals by October 31, but it emerged at the last moment that almost 200 had not been processed.

Mr Morton, appearing before the Scottish Parliament's education committee, admitted that he had been unaware of the failure. "There is no excuse for this and I'm not offering it as an excuse, but the information and the detail now available was not conveyed to me," he said.

Jack McConnell, who has just taken over from Sam Galbraith as Scottish education minister, said he was extremely angry and was determined to take all possible steps to prevent any recurrence of the problems.

Mr Galbraith rejected claims that he should have intervened sooner and more effectively.

He said the SQA had been set up as an arm's-length body, and his authority was strictly limited. "We can let them feel the heat of the ministerial breath on their collar. But we are mindful of the fact that we don't have any right to intervene," he said.

An independent inquiry into the crisis by management consultants Deloitte & Touche, commissioned by Mr Galbraith, is expected to be published today, followed by reports from the parliament's education and enterprise and lifelong learning committees.

Mr McConnell said the SQA's latest failure to meet deadlines illustrated the clear need to act quickly and decisively on the Deloitte & Touche findings.

An SQA spokesman accepted that it had missed its self-imposed deadline, but stressed that thousands of appeals had been cleared, and that the remaining 200 would be cleared within two days.

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