The current school qualifications system is “in many ways” poorer than its predecessor and “singularly fails” to deliver key curricular aims, according to the leader of Scotland’s largest teaching union.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan also said the existing framework was “overcrowded” with “year on year, high stake assessments”.

His comments come after Louise Hayward, Professor of Educational Assessment and Innovation at Glasgow University, called for a “national conversation” about qualifications.

Prof Hayward, who chairs a major new commission set up to look at approaches in England, said change would be needed.

READ MORE: SQA and Education Scotland to be reformed

She warned that the system south of the Border was failing “too many pupils, teachers and schools”, adding: “Nor does it meet the needs of business... It places undue demands on young people - risking their mental health - and is creating a new generation who leave school scarred by their experience of the exam system.”

Prof Hayward said she and her partners on the Independent Assessment Commission (IAC) were not “anti-exams” but rather against an approach that “assesses all young people based only on exams”.

She acknowledged the Scottish system was “very different” from England’s, adding that it offers a range of pathways to “make progress through schools and colleges into further or higher education or employment”.

But she also stressed many young people see examinations in S5/6 as “make or break”.

 Her remarks come amid widespread anger over this year’s alternative certification model, which has left pupils facing a gruelling treadmill of tests.

HeraldScotland: EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said the current qualifications framework was "in many ways" weaker than its predecessor.EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said the current qualifications framework was "in many ways" weaker than its predecessor.

Mr Flanagan said: “The EIS would agree with Professor Hayward’s assessment of Scotland’s senior phase qualification framework, which is overcrowded with year on year, high stake assessments for students.

“Curriculum for Excellence was supposed to deliver three key objectives: deeper learning; breadth of study; and parity between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ studies.

"The current system, notwithstanding the temporary, Covid-related changes, singularly fails to deliver any of these aims and in many ways is poorer than the previous model of Standard Grade followed by S5/6 qualifications.

“The forthcoming OECD report and the review and reform of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) should offer an opportunity to revisit these issues.”

READ MORE: Glasgow schools boss calls for grades overhaul

Seamus Searson, SSTA General Secretary, said: “National qualifications were originally supposed to be about banking evidence, and the assumption was that youngsters would be doing assessments when it was appropriate for those youngsters to do them.

"But we’ve moved away from the idea of presenting young people at the right time and what we’ve ended up with is one lot of exams at the end of S4, exams at the end of S5 and then more exams at the end of S6.”

An SQA spokesman said: “The experience of the pandemic has raised legitimate questions about the model of learning and teaching in our schools and colleges - and the assessment and qualifications which support that.

"The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills has confirmed that the OECD Review of Curriculum for Excellence will be published later this month, with a further report on assessment and qualifications in the early autumn.

"We must ensure that our qualifications system meets the aspirations of Curriculum for Excellence and the needs of learners and the labour market.”

HeraldScotland: An OECD review of Curriculum for Excellence is due to be published this month.An OECD review of Curriculum for Excellence is due to be published this month.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We will continue to learn from the challenging experiences of the last two years and commissioned the OECD to look at the future of assessment and qualification in Scotland, and how it might be transformed based on best practice globally.

"The results of that work will be published by the OECD in autumn.”

Responding to IAC criticisms of the English exams and assessment system, a Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Our reformed GCSEs and A levels rigorously assess pupils’ knowledge and have been strengthened to better prepare young people for their future, following feedback from colleges, universities and employers.

“We have also launched T Levels, new technical qualifications which have been designed with leading employers, so that students finish with the knowledge and skills they need to progress into good jobs, further study or an apprenticeship.”