Preliminary exams should be cancelled under the alternative assessment process put in place after John Swinney’s decision to axe the 2021 Higher and Advanced Higher tests, Scotland’s largest teaching union has said.

The EIS stressed that dropping prelims would help create additional teaching time for pupils.

Its call comes as schools await advice from the SQA following the Education Secretary’s announcement that next year’s exams will not take place because of Covid-related disruption.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “Schools will be seeking urgent advice from the SQA following the announcement... that next May’s exam diet is cancelled but it seems clear that the alternative assessment model will build on the approach already laid out for National 5, that is professional judgement based on a range of evidence gathered later in the session to facilitate maximum teaching and learning time in class.

“We would expect the advice to say that planned prelims should be set aside in favour of additional teaching time. This will be disruptive for some schools which is why we favoured a much earlier decision on the diet, but if we are seeking to ensure equity for all pupils, this is the approach required.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has been defeated for the second time in three weeks over calls for more teachers to be hired to help schools cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

It follows MSPs instructing the Scottish Government, in a non-binding vote last month, to recruit a minimum of 2,000 additional full-time teachers.

A Conservative motion expressing “disappointment” that ministers had not yet brought forward proposals to achieve this, and calling again for the extra teachers to be recruited, was passed by 59 votes to four, with 61 abstentions.

Holyrood’s opposition parties also accused ministers of failing to act and again called for action to hire more school staff to deal with the “crippling” workload.

Mr Swinney responded by saying that the Scottish Government had allocated £80 million and hired 1,400 additional teachers, as well as 246 support staff.

“This additional resource is bringing much-needed resilience to schools and the education system," he said.