Scottish exams chief resigns

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The Independent Online

The Chief Executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the body responsible for the chaos surrounding the issuing of school examination results, resigned yesterday.

The Chief Executive of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the body responsible for the chaos surrounding the issuing of school examination results, resigned yesterday.

A statement issued by the organisation said Ron Tuck had left by mutual agreement and that an announcement about an interim replacement would be made early next week.

Mr Tuck's departure comes amid ongoing confusion and anger after some of the 140,000 students who sat Highers, Standards and Intermediate papers, the Scottish equivalent of GCSEs and A-levels, received incomplete exam certificates, some containing errors.

University principals are demanding immediate action to sort out the mess. They cannot confirm places for the new term, due to start in October, until students know their correct exam results.

Mr Tuck's resignation came just hours after he told BBC Radio Scotland that efforts had already begun to prevent a repeat of the problem. "I can guarantee it won't happen again next year."

He attributed this year's delays to the implementation of a new IT system and administration procedures.

Mr Tuck said: "We feel we have achieved a lot in the last year, although ultimately we fell short of our own high standards in that the results have not been completed."

Dr Sam Galbraith, the Scottish Education Minister, has set up an independent inquiry and has promised that no student would miss out on a university place because of the errors.

Meanwhile the Government has announced that Britain's brightest students are for the first time to pit their wits against pupils from schools abroad.

More than 800 students, sitting A-levels this year, sat new World Class Tests - a scheme for the cleverest 18-year-olds to be officially introduced in 2002.

The results will now be compared with those attained in similar exams by students in Queensland, Australia, Sweden and Hong Kong in order to benchmark the results.

The pilot exams have been taken in chemistry, English, French, geography and maths.

David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, hopes the new tests, when fully up and running, will ensure that the brightest A-level students are stretched.

He decided to introduce the tests, which are based on models currently used in Singapore and Hong Kong, in the light of the increasingly low take-up of special level papers, especially in comprehensive schools.

The new tests, properly called Advance Extension Awards, will involve students sitting an additional paper and a dissertation. The tests will be based on extensive reading outside the normal A-level syllabus and will be set in European modern languages, English, sciences, maths, history, geography, religious studies and Latin, as well as a paper about critical thinking, logic and philosophy.

The tests will require a "greater depth of understanding" than A-level, the Department for Education said. Run in conjunction with the University of Cambridge, the tests could also replace entrance exams in the future.

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