SHOCKWAVES from the replacement of Standard Grade with National 4 and National 5 qualifications in 2013 are still being felt.

As they were developed, pupils were given the opportunity of studying internal coursework units which - if they passed them - would count towards a National 4 qualification if they failed the National 5 exam.

Teachers were always likely to promote the belt and braces approach, but this led to a significant increase in workload for both staff and pupils which was deemed unnecessary in many cases.

As a result, John Swinney, the Education Secretary, agreed to get rid of the fall-back option.

However, an unintended consequence was the later realisation the move meant some borderline pupils entered for National 5 courses could leave with nothing if they failed the exam.

As a result Mr Swinney had to reverse the decision, but did so as an interim measure and only in exceptional circumstances.

As the latest figures show, some 10,000 pupils were awarded National 4 as a result of the fall-back, with the SQA handling some 140,000 unit assessments.

It is clear from these figures that the ‘exceptional circumstances’ instruction was comprehensively ignored.

What is more worrying is that a late deluge of unit entries meant the SQA could not carry out its usual verification procedures.

All interested parties agree that situation cannot be repeated next year with the SQA seeing a tougher deadline as one solution. For teaching unions the answer needs to be more radical with a scrapping of the fall-back position altogether.

What that would mean in practice is teachers, parents and pupils having to make a judgement about whether candidates are best suited to National 4 or National 5.

Unfortunately, National 4 has a reputation problem because it has no final exam and a review is taking place to establish how to make it more attractive.

The promotion of National 4 as a worthwhile qualification is more vital than ever to ensure more reform of the exam system delivers for pupils.