SCOTLAND'S exam body has appealed to ministers for a £5 million bail-out to cover the spiralling cost of new qualifications.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) has written to the Scottish Government requesting an additional £4.9m - in addition to £14m in extra funding it already needs.

The call comes just a year after it emerged the SQA was given a £2m bail-out after recording a £3m deficit in 2013/14.

The body is facing rising costs as schools across Scotland introduce a raft of new exams and qualifications associated with the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) school reforms.

Under CfE, National 4 and National 5 exams replaced Standard Grade last year and new Highers came on stream this summer.

However, the reforms have proved problematic, with the SQA under pressure to provide much greater levels of support for school staff than originally envisaged with extra course materials and hundreds of subject events for thousands of teachers.

In addition, concern over the new Higher meant many schools decided to stick with the older version for an additional year meaning the SQA had to run two sets of exams at the same time.

There has also been speculation that a significant decline in the number of exams being sat by candidates under CfE has also hit the SQA's finances as fees from schools fall.

Budget documents from the SQA state: "The budget reflected the latest information on candidate entry numbers and indicated that additional grant of £4.9m would be required. The programme grant requirement to fund specific activities requested by the Scottish Government was £14.1m.

"If agreed by the board, the budget and the associated funding requirement would be submitted to the Scottish Government for approval. Following discussion the Board approved the approach and the submission of the budget to Scottish Government."

An SQA spokesman added: "CfE represents a change in approach to learning and assessment and in the way education is delivered in our schools and colleges, impacting on the required implementation and ongoing development costs, such as the dual-running of the current and new National qualifications this year.

"We fully anticipated this change in costs and throughout the year have been in constant dialogue with the Scottish Government to provide transparency on the funding required to deliver a successful qualifications programme."

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union urged that SQA to spend the additional money helping teachers.

Andrea Bradley the union's assistant secretary for education, said: "We are seeking urgent action by the SQA to.... relieve pressure on pupils and to tackle the excessive workload burden that is currently being placed on teachers as a consequence of assessment design.

"The aim of this would be to lighten the load of internal assessment and the weight of its accompanying bureaucracy, creating more valuable time and space to devote to good quality learning and teaching.

"We have also called on the SQA to produce additional specimen papers with marking schemes to assist in the preparation of candidates for final exams."

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders' Scotland, which represents secondary headteachers, added: "The uncertainty of predicting the overall costs of the roll-out of CfE was always likely to lead to a reassessment of the financial situation.

"It is no surprise that such a request has been made and I would think government would fully understand the need and look to continue to support the final roll out of CfE qualifications."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We are aware of the SQA's potential requirement for additional funding in 2015-16. The Scottish Government works closely with all its public bodies throughout the year to ensure functions are delivered appropriately."