Schools face “chaos” after the summer holidays due to the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s decision to introduce an extended results deadline, according to criticisms that are fuelling demands for an overhaul of alternative assessment.

New guidance says a “limited opportunity” to provide provisional grades by September 3 is being created to ensure “a degree of equity” for those “unduly disadvantaged” by disruption to education during the pandemic.

Online study sessions will be offered over the summer so pupils are ready to sit assessments when they come back to school in August.

SQA bosses expect the measure will apply in only a “very small” number of cases. They also stress it is intended for candidates who have finished the learning and teaching for their course but have not been able to complete assessment evidence ahead of the June 25 submission date.

However, critics predict there will be no straightforward way of deciding which pupils should be granted an extension and warn schools could be crippled as the 2021-22 session gets underway.

READ MORE: John Swinney warned over SQA results 'disaster'

This year’s National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams were axed due to fears over the impact of Covid-19 and remote learning, particularly for those living in poorer areas.

Grades will instead be based on teacher judgement supported by evidence of attainment and the SQA has provided question papers that staff can use for this purpose.

But anger is growing amid concerns the current arrangement is focused excessively on high-pressure, exam-style tests, even though pupils have been hit by extended school closures.

Official SQA guidance states that teachers must not “infer” attainment when deciding on provisional results and says conclusions should be based on a candidate’s “demonstrated” achievement rather than “personal circumstances”.

This has led union leaders to question whether teacher judgement that considers pupil accomplishments over a period of time, as well as factors such as having to self-isolate, will be possible in any meaningful sense.

HeraldScotland: This year's National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams have been cancelled.This year's National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams have been cancelled.

It has also sparked fears that young people have been left to endure a brutal combination of cramming and assessments - and to a timetable even more challenging than the one typically drawn up for a conventional exams diet.

Now there are warnings that bringing in the September deadline will create new problems for pupils and add to burdens faced by staff after the holidays.

One school leader, who asked not to be named, said the extension should be withdrawn.

“Instead of giving people more time to achieve the impossible, allow us to take an approach which can be concluded before the summer without having such a negative impact on pupil and staff mental health and throwing the start of next session into chaos,” he said in a blog post.

The school leader also warned that schools “across the country” could be “faced with requests from pupils and parents who think that, given the entire summer holidays to study, they would be better placed to sit their non-exam-exams after the summer, thus crippling the move to the new timetable”.

READ MORE: SQA row sparks fears over 'delayed' university offers

He has proposed changing the current arrangement so teachers can use “a balance of demonstrated and inferred attainment”.

His blog post also calls for the removal of all guidance about question papers being “the best judge of performance”.

Echoing the school leader’s remarks, Eileen Prior, Executive Director of parents’ organisation Connect, said: “Many young people have been severely impacted by Covid-19 in multiple ways... Now it appears the SQA is saying personal circumstances can only be taken into account by more assessments and an extended deadline for submission.

“Allowing a longer deadline for some young people to complete their assessments may in fact have worse impacts and stop them from moving on to their next steps.

“Parents are telling us in no uncertain terms that teacher judgement, which recognises tracked and anticipated attainment, should be factored in.”

HeraldScotland: SQA Chief Executive Fiona Robertson.SQA Chief Executive Fiona Robertson.

An SQA spokesman said: “A limited opportunity to submit provisional results by 3rd September is being created for those learners most impacted and unduly disadvantaged.

"We expect this opportunity to be taken by only a small number of candidates. It has wide support.

“The National Qualifications Group, which includes teacher and parent representation, has been consistent that this year’s alternative certification model is based on teacher and lecturer judgement, with evidence of demonstrated attainment used to support that professional judgement.”