THOUSANDS of pupils studying computing science are facing a “catastrophe” next summer as a result of strike action, teachers have warned.

Computing At School Scotland, which represents teachers, said a national campaign of industrial action over mounting workload could see pupils failing to secure their qualifications.

READ MORE: SQA admits mistakes were made in computing science exam

The situation has arisen after members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union backed strike action to protest over rising workload associated with new qualifications.

Most subjects will not be affected because the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) marks internal assessments themselves, but computing science is vulnerable because teachers mark the work.

Other subjects, including graphic communication and engineering science, are also marked in a similar way.

Staff are also concerned because none of the work they do to mark the assessments is paid and it is done in teachers' own time unlike any other subjects.

READ MORE: SQA admits mistakes were made in computing science exam

Mark Tennant, co-chair of Computing At School Scotland, said the body backed the EIS industrial action, but feared the consequences could hit pupils badly.

He said: “I am extremely concerned industrial action by the unions will have a huge impact on the ability of computing science teachers to mark coursework in time for next year.

“It is imperative the SQA does all it can to avoid a catastrophe in April 2017 as pupils work could not be marked on time under the current arrangements.”

READ MORE: SQA admits mistakes were made in computing science exam

Mr Tennant said a survey of members had shown “a great deal of anger” at the huge workload created by marking coursework.

He added: “We heard of horrible situations where teachers have worked over 50 hours, often during their Easter holidays, to mark pupils’ work on time.

“Our survey revealed that 90 per cent of members want an immediate move to external marking of coursework in order to reduce workload and achieve fairness in comparison with other subjects."

READ MORE: SQA admits mistakes were made in computing science exam

A spokesman for the SQA said: “The priority of the entire education system is to work together to ensure the best possible learning opportunities are provided to our young people.

“We have already introduced a number of measures which will directly address the workload concerns raised by teachers. This includes changes to unit assessments in a large number of subjects.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said ministers were committed to tackling bureaucracy and freeing up teachers.

He said: “We have been working with unions, local authorities and others to address concerns over workload and we welcome all contributions as part of these discussions.

“The concerns raised by teachers are being addressed, but we recognise there is more to be done to free up our teachers to teach for the benefit of all in our education system."

Earlier this month, exam officials had to admit mistakes were made in a national computing science exam sat by thousands of pupils.

The SQA said errors were included in the National 5 exam after an outcry from teachers who said it was one of the worst papers ever produced.

The SQA previously insisted there was nothing wrong with the paper and said feedback from teachers had been positive.