IT fiasco exam body was warned of danger



Mike Simons

The Scottish Qualifications Authority was warned about incompatibilities between its computer systems and those in schools...



Mike Simons

The Scottish Qualifications Authority was warned about incompatibilities between its computer systems and those in schools five months before the exam results fiasco that left thousands of students with incorrect results.

Minutes of the SQA's School Assessment Focus Group from February of this year, seen by Computer Weekly, clearly spelt out the fears of schools and local education authorities.

These concerns are certain to feature heavily in the independent inquiry that the Scottish Parliament was set to announce as Computer Weekly went to press.

According to the minutes of the February meeting, examination centres were "still unhappy with the increase in the amount of data required by the SQA and felt that the systems had been built mainly to suit the needs of the SQA rather than support the centres' own management needs."

Bill Arundel, head of the Operations Unit at the SQA, told the meeting that key local authority and school software suppliers had called for more information from the SQA so they could check the accuracy of data submitted on their systems.

Arundel told the meeting, "The SQA could not become involved in specifying software and it would be for those commissioning the software to specify the degree of functionality required."

Neil Logue, director of education at Angus Council, warned the meeting that "radical re-engineering" of the software used by local authorities might be necessary instead of the "refinement," which the SQA hoped would suffice.

The SQA is currently holding an internal inquiry into the disaster, which cost chief executive Ron Tuck and two other top managers their jobs.

The authority has, however, ruled out a problem with its own Ingres-based systems. An SQA representative said, "The SQA has no evidence of software problems. All the results, which have been queried as 'anomalies', have been thoroughly investigated and have always proved to be cases of missing information. SQA has found no evidence of systematic failure."

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