EXAM chiefs have been accused of a cruel blunder after they destroyed the art work of dozens of Scots students.
It has emerged that precious works created by more than 30 youngsters at a Fife school were thrown out by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).
The SQA said it destroyed the work because the pupils’ school missed the deadline for asking for them to be sent back by three days.
But the head of Madras College in St Andrews has angrily demanded an explanation from the SQA.
Ian Jones said they were assured by the SQA that the artwork would be spared and even offered to collect it.
The destruction of the pieces is a potential blow to the career prospects of youngsters who could use them to help get on to a college or university course.
A total of 34 students – believed to be taking the Higher Art exam – were stunned to discover their work had been lost for ever.
The SQA demands that schools that want pupils’ work returned notify them by the end of September.
Mr Jones admitted the school had missed the deadline by a few days.
But he added: “We realised that our request to have the work returned from the SQA was three days late and we called them to discuss the situation, and even offered to collect the work ourselves if necessary.
“The SQA assured us that the work would be returned, so we were extremely disappointed to discover that they had, after all, destroyed the work.
“I have written to them formally requesting an explanation.”
Mr Jones said they would help any students who had wanted to use the work to help them get to college.
He said: “We will provide a letter of reference explaining what has happened to any student who needs it.”
The SQA denied that they had reached an agreement with Madras College to save the students’ art.
A spokesman said: ““The school appears to have been under the impression that in spite of their late request for return of art work, that would be accommodated.
“However, we have no record of such an assurance having been given.
“This is particularly unfortunate, and especially so for the candidates and families involved.”
The spokesman insisted the SQA’s September 30 deadline for requesting the return of art work was “widely publicised” and that reminders had been sent to schools.
He said: “The deadline was particularly pressing this year as we were in the process of moving from our offices in Dalkeith where the materials are stored.
“If we don’t receive a request that art work should be returned then the standard practice is that it is destroyed.
“Owing to the scale of material processed each year – over 50,000 pieces and folios – it would be impossible to do otherwise.”
He added: “Our internal inquiry confirms that, unfortunately, the Madras College request was received after this date and, regretfully, the candidates’ artwork has been destroyed.
The SQA said it too would help affected students applying to college. “If we are contacted by an art college then we will, of course, let them know that the candidates’ work has been routinely disposed of,” he said.
The destruction of the art work is the latest in a series of controversies to hit the SQA.
Earlier this year 30,000 students received their exam results a day early after signing up for the SQA’s new text message system.
In 2000 around 17,000 pupils received incomplete or incorrect grades as the result of a new exam system being introduced.
The mistake led to resignation of the SQA chief executive, Ron Tuck, and the replacement of Sam Galbraith with Jack McConnell as Education minister.
Mr McConnell went on to replace 16 of the 24 members of the Scottish Qualifications Authority board.