PUPILS were credited with passing tens of thousands of pieces of coursework without examiners checking them in the usual way.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) would normally monitor a sample of the classroom-based assessments to ensure schools maintain standards.

However, because an estimated 70,000 of the so-called unit assessments sat by National 5 candidates came in too late they could not be verified.

The SQA awarded the units anyway to ensure no pupils were disadvantaged, but the lack of quality assurance has sparked calls for reform.

Dr Janet Brown, chief executive of the SQA, suggested a much earlier final deadline for registration of candidates.

She said: “We required schools to submit entries for units and courses by November 2017, with minor revisions being possible before the end of March 2018.

“These timings allow us to plan appropriate resources for quality assurance and for the delivery of the exam diet.

“However, a significant number of unit entries were received from schools during March resulting in a doubling of the number of unit entries.

“This high volume of late entries had a major impact on SQA’s ability to undertake quality assurance.”

Ms Brown said evidence from the assessments had been collected from selected schools and would be subject to a later review.

She added: “To avoid this issue in future years we advise schools to make all their entries as early as possible. They can be removed at a later date if they are not needed.

“In order to ensure there is sufficient time to carry out quality assurance of units, SQA will be reviewing the final entry date for units. Entries received after this date will be certificated in November rather than August.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said the problem centred on the fact units were used as a safety net for National 5 candidates.

Pupils failing National 5 who have completed the units are awarded a National 4 qualification instead.

Mr Flanagan said the practice should be ended as soon as possible to simplify the system.

He said: “Last year the fall-back position whereby pupils could gain a National 4 was continued for use in exceptional circumstances.

“As the statistics show, however, the practice appeared to be widespread in certain school and local authorities with the SQA noting a surge in late course level changes in March.

“What this means in practice is that teachers are having to run two courses ... while at the same time putting pupils through unit assessments.”

Mr Flanagan said for the pupils and teachers affected it had meant changes to National 5 resulting in greater workload and increased assessment - the opposite of what was promised.

He added: “For this situation to continue by default for a further session, as appears to be the case, is deeply disappointing. A decision to end these would be progress.”