THE number of exam appeals in Scotland has reached a four year high - but fewer are being granted, official figures have revealed.

It has led to calls by the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country's largest education trade union for the Scottish Qualifications Authority to look into what it believed could be an indicator of a lack of confidence in the examination system.

Data published by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) show that there were 13,898 marking review requests by pupils in Scotland in 2017 – that’s 75 per cent more than in 2014 when appeal fees came in and nearly 700 more than the previous year.

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But less than one in five appeals (2,268) now result in an improved mark. In 2014 just over one in five received upgrades but there were nearly 6,000 fewer appeals.

More than a fifth of Advance Higher results were graded up after an appeal and rose from 158 to 197 in a year.

Over three years ago, the SQA introduced charges for the first time to cut down on bogus appeals as part of a wider shake-up of the system.

The rules give pupils the option of either a full marking review or a clerical check to make sure marks have been added up correctly - with schools footing the bill if no changes are made.

The costs under the post results review system ranged from £10 for a check to see if the marks have been added up correctly to £39.75 for a full review of the marking. No charge would apply if a mistake has been made.

It is believed these charges resulted in a drop in the number of appeals in 2014.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: "A significant increase in the number of appeals would generally indicate a lack of confidence in the outcomes being achieved by students, which would be a concern.

"It also shows the high stakes nature of SQA qualifications as they feed in to the schools performance results.

"The SQA should undertake a deeper analysis of the trends being displayed to adjust the system as appropriate."

He believed hile initially reluctant to incur the additional charges, schools are perhaps now more confident in the fee system.

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said the rise in review requests in the past four years was "very worrying".

“That is a very significant increase and it comes at a time when it is increasingly difficult to have the examinee’s request upheld," she said.

"“This suggests schools are not yet comfortable with the new criteria which were put in place when the old appeals system was replaced - something that will undoubtedly be a concern for pupils, parents and teachers and something that should set alarm bells ringing in SQA.”

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray, who has previously called for the appeal fees to be abolished, pointed out there are less than half the number of appeals there used to be, before charges were introduced.

He added: "What’s more the system remains biased in favour of pupils in private schools who are now far more likely to appeal, and simply pay up. This is an inequality which the SNP have created themselves, simply to save the SQA money and they should fix it now.”

Details of the reviews have come four months after SQA said the Scottish exam results, which overall were broadly in line with 2016, were evidence of a stable system.

As almost 137,000 candidates received full results of their Nationals, Highers and Advanced Highers it emerged the pass rate for Higher exams dipped slightly but the total number of passes remained above 150,000 for a third successive year.

The number of entries for Highers, however, dropped almost 3,000 on last year to 194,813 but it was felt it had remained at a high level historically.

The pass rate at National 4 was 92.8 per cent although there was a significant drop in entries.

Dr Janet Brown, SQA chief executive, and Scotland’s chief examining officer, said: “Our approach to assessing qualifications is high-quality, rigorous and fair for all candidates. However it is right that schools and colleges have the opportunity to query results on behalf of their learners and ensure that their efforts are correctly rewarded.

“Our Post Results Services, which were designed in partnership with stakeholders throughout Scotland’s education community, have again shown that at the heart of all our activities is a commitment to delivering the highest possible standard of national qualifications.”