Teenager to sue after exam fiasco

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A LOTHIANS teenager who worked for nine months to re-sit a Higher exam - only to be told she had passed first time around, is suing the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

Claire Bowen, 18, formerly a pupil at St David’s High in Dalkeith, was told she failed Higher music in August 2000 amid the exams fiasco.

Her school appealed against the result, but was unsuccessful.

However the SQA, which bungled thousands of grades in what became the 2000 results crisis, had not counted all the marks Miss Bowen had received in the practical part of her music exam.

After spending nine months preparing for the re-sit Miss Bowen received a new certificate last May stating that she had passed a year earlier with Grade B.

By that time it was too late for her to study her choice of new subject , art and design and she had lost time which she could have spent focusing on her other resits - maths and biology.

In what could prove to be a test case, her solicitor Cameron Fyfe is taking legal action against the SQA for damages on the basis that their negligence harmed her academic career.

He is also asking for compensation for the distress, anxiety and damage to her psychological health she suffered as a result of the SQA’s mistake.

Mr Fyfe said: "This is one of the more extreme cases to come out of the fiasco. Many of the other pupils who were let down did not bother to sue because they wanted to get on with their lives. But Claire feels she is entitled to claim compensation for the stress, distress and trauma this has caused her.

"We are also trying to claim compensation for the fact that she spent a year unnecessarily studying a subject again, which may have harmed her academic career. There is no legal precedent for the latter claim, so we are breaking new ground."

Today Miss Bowen has three Highers at grades B and C, when she might have had four including art and design - enough to win a university place.

Instead of studying towards a degree she has spent the last six months working in a temporary job waiting for a college place at Jewel and Esk Valley College.

And she is still upset about what has happened.

She said: "I am still really angry about it. It took practically a whole year to inform me and I had already sat part of my Higher music, the performance part."

Mr Bowen described how receiving the original failure notice affected his daughter in a letter to former chief executive of the SQA Mr Morton.

He said: "To a girl who suffers low self-esteem at the best of times this was shattering news and she was very demoralised and very depressed."

Mr Morton admitted in a letter to Mr Bowen: "This must be the worst case we have had to deal with in the light of the management problems last year."

Jack McConnell, in his previous role as education minister, also told Mr Bowen the authority’s handling of the case had been "unacceptable at all stages."

He continued: "I know that there is little I can say that will be of much comfort to you or Claire, but as a parent myself I can fully sympathise with the distress this has caused your family."

A spokesman for the SQA said: "We are aware of the circumstances in this unfortunate case and, as it is being dealt with by our lawyers, we feel unable to comment further."