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Dewar defends Minister in exam row.

Scottish First Minister Mr Donald Dewar yesterday stood by the Scottish Education Minister Mr Sam Galbraith amid calls for him to be sacked over the exam results fiasco.

In his first day back at work after major heart surgery, Mr Dewar said he would not ask Mr Galbraith to resign over the crisis which has forced the Scottish Qualifications Authority to re-check the results of almost 150,000 students.

Mr Dewar said the Education Minister was not to blame for the problems in the Scottish exam results system which saw incomplete and late certificates sent to pupils who had sat Highers, Standard Grades and Intermediate papers.

"I accept that there have been difficulties but I want to underline that we need to look at the facts of the situation and have a proper balanced view of the facts before rushing to a judgment," said Mr Dewar.

"I have great confidence in Sam Galbraith as a colleague and a Minister.

"It's important that we establish the facts and take the necessary steps to put matters right."

The First Minister said it was important not to rush to make decisions before the outcome of an independent inquiry into the results fiasco.

He said: "I come back at a time when one very current issue is the real difficulties that have beset the Scottish Qualifications Agency.

"I greatly regret what has happened but recognise that many people are working hard to put matters right.

"Can I emphasise my determination to ensure that lessons will be learnt and there is no recurrence of these troubles.

"That is why Sam Galbraith has decided to call in independent consultants to report on the causes of the present pressing concerns which we will publish when it is available."

Mr Dewar said the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principles had given a reassurance no candidate seeking a place at a Scottish University would suffer as a result of the problems and no candidate with A-levels will leap-frog those who sat Highers.

He said a similar undertaking had been given by UCAS.

"Finally, a validation exercise involving the schools is now in hand," said Mr Dewar.

"I expect it to be carried through with an appropriate sense of urgency. It should be completed by Thursday evening.

"An interim chief executive for the SQA will be in place very shortly."

The First Minister would not be drawn on apportioning blame for the current difficulties facing the SQA and Mr Dewar stressed that the SQA was an independent body.

Despite walking into the exam results storm on his first day back at the office, Mr Dewar said he was "delighted" to be back at work and paid tribute to his deputy Mr Jim Wallace, who stood in for him.
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Author:Bird, Simon
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 15, 2000
Words:458
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