Big cock-up sees school exam results texted early

Nearly 30,000 high school pupils in Scotland have received their exam results early, after SMS messages were sent to their smartphones and mobiles a day before other students.

Youngsters who signed up to have their results sent by text message got a sneak peek at how they did, the Scottish Qualifications Authority has admitted.

"This afternoon, the 29,863 candidates who had opted to receive their SQA examination results via text message were sent these results early," SQA chief executive Janet Brown said in a statement. "The text results should have been issued to candidates at 09:00 tomorrow."

Almost 36,000 pupils are believed to have chosen to receive their exam results by SMS or email, but only those who opted for SMS only have received their results early.

The rest of the 160,000 students who took their Higher and Standard Grade tests this year will have to pick their results up at schools between 8:00 and 09:00 BST on Thursday.

The exam body reckons the gaffe hasn't left anyone at a disadvantage, but opposition politicians in the Scottish Parliament have branded the slip-up a "serious mistake".

"SQA is conducting an urgent inquiry with the external contractor, AQL, which issues the texts on behalf of SQA, in order to understand how this has happened," SQA boss Brown said. "This is always a stressful time for candidates, their parents and their families and SQA apologises for any additional stress this may have caused."

The Scottish government has launched a helpline number to answer questions about the early results on 0808 100 8000.

Higher-education applications body UCAS has said that although clearing lists of university places will be online from around midnight tonight, clearing applications will only be open from around mid-morning on Thursday.

Unsurprisingly, students who had received an early results windfall seemed rather than less than upset about the kerfuffle. Commenting on the BBC news website, Daniel Levine of Linlithgow said: "I was in a little cafe eating lunch whilst on holiday in Portugal. My phone bleeped and I saw there was a text from the SQA! I was not expecting it today, I got my English results out, which I'm relatively happy with. I certainly don't think it was a bad thing, less pressure!"

Andrew Arthur of Motherwell tells a similar story: "I couldn't believe it, I was thinking it was some sort of joke from someone! Anyway, thanks SQA for the early surprise, now i can relax!"