Teachers are being asked to observe pupils remotely while they complete work that may count towards final grades for this year's national qualifications, according to a "gobsmacked" union leader.

Proposals for online invigilation come amid growing fears that the latest school closures have thrown plans for alternative assessment off course.

This year’s exams have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, with plans in place for an alternative certification arrangement covering National 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers.

Grades will be based on teacher judgement supported by up to four pieces of evidence.

In an update, the SQA said it and its partners were working through a "range of scenarios" and considering "potential flexibilities" which may include extending the date for submission of provisional results.

But Seamus Searson, General Secretary at the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA), said a radical re-think would be needed.

"Schools could be closed for weeks," he said.

"We need to find an assessment system that works for pupils and which won't mean significant additional pressure for staff.

"I know of one school that wants teachers to invigilate pupils as they work at home. They want staff to log on to watch pupils and make sure work which is submitted is the pupil's own work - but that's a recipe for disaster.

"You don't know whether someone else is in the room, you don't know whether that pupil's work has been changed after the online recording ends. How do you observe 30 pupils at once? And then there are the online safety issues.

"Whoever thought they could ask teachers to sit and observe pupils at home doing work for assessments didn't have their brain in gear. It left me gobsmacked." 

Schools are currently closed to all but key worker and vulnerable children until at least February 1 amid fears over a new, more transmissible strain of coronavirus.

Mr Searson has suggested consideration be given to a "holistic school report for each senior pupil that records the subjects they have studied" and a "straightforward teacher assessment" which would be rubberstamped by the SQA.

Meanwhile, the NASUWT union has warned that, with prelims cancelled and key assessment dates pushed back due to remote learning, pupils are facing the stressful possibility of a single diet of “internal exams" later in the academic year. 

It said this would have huge workload implications.

An SQA spokesman said: “In light of the First Minister’s announcement on 4 January and the move to remote learning, the National Qualifications 2021 Group has met to consider contingency arrangements and the impact this will have on schools delivering National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses under the alternative certification model.

“The National Qualifications Group is working through a range of scenarios and is considering potential flexibilities for the alternative certification model, should they be needed. This may include extending the date for submitting provisional results.

“The priority for schools and colleges during January should be to maximise learning and teaching time.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The National Qualifications 2021 Group is considering the impact of the move to remote learning on the alternative certification model for this year’s national qualifications.”