GROWING numbers of teachers are providing improper levels of coaching to their pupils in a bid to ensure they pass vital qualifications, new figures show.

The number of reported cases of teachers "over-directing" pupils in coursework has increased tenfold in the last seven years - from just nine cases in 2011 to 90 this year.

The figures from the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) also show there have been 40 cases of proven malpractice in 2017 compared to just 18 last year, with 30 cases still ongoing.

According to the SQA, teacher malpractice includes providing model answers, giving pupils too much time or marking essays rather than giving more general feedback.

The situation has arisen following the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence which has placed less of an emphasis on the final exam in qualifications such as National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher.

An over-reliance on final exams is seen as counterproductive because it encourages wrote-learning and may not reflect how well a pupil performs throughout the school year.

However, it means that coursework supervised by teachers now counts towards more of the final mark in a qualification which has encouraged some teachers to give pupils too much help.

A number of teachers have been struck off in recent years including a history teacher from West Lothian who allowed pupils to work from completed essays in exams.

A secondary teacher from Dumfries was reprimanded after creating fake National 5 English results for almost half her pupils at a time when she was failed to cope with increasing paperwork. Similar cases were recorded in Renfrewshire and Angus.

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservative Party, described the figures - released under freedom of information legislation - as “worrying”.

“Whilst malpractice amongst teachers is relatively limited in the grand scale of things, the recent significant increase in its incidence is a big concern,” she said.

“In turn, this will increase the concerns about the over emphasis on teacher judgment when it comes to some aspects of assessment and whether all instances of malpractice are being picked up given the reliance on self reporting.”

Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, called on the SQA to reform reporting procedures.

He said: “This is more evidence of the problems caused by the new exams and their introduction while teachers are placed under the pressures of growing workload, bigger class sizes and fewer resources.

“The fact that a freedom of information request was required to identify the problem simply underlines the need for reform.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union, called for clearer guidance from the SQA.

He said: “Clearly, it is important that teachers are aware of policy relating to acceptable levels of support for pupils working towards qualifications and there is a need for very clear and readily available guidance for all teachers in this regard.

“Given the degree of change in both the curriculum and the qualifications in recent years, including the greater emphasis on internal assessment of coursework carried out in the classroom, it is essential teachers are supported to ensure understanding of any impact on the types and level of support that can be offered to pupils.

“All teachers naturally want the best for the pupils in their classes, and will work very hard to ensure that they can offer appropriate support in all areas of the curriculum.”

An SQA spokesman said: “We have seen an increase in the number of cases being reported to us where our conditions of assessment may not have been followed.

“This rise in reporting reflects increased awareness across the sector of the importance of protecting fairness and equity for all candidates being assessed.

“The cases reported to us often come from teachers, lecturers and centres themselves keen that assessment conditions are consistently applied in the interests of all.”

The spokesman said updated guidance for schools and colleges on assessment conditions was published earlier this year.

He added: “This guidance includes practical examples on what does and does not constitute reasonable assistance to candidates.”

According to the guidance schools must not provide model answers or give pupils a specific frame work to follow in essays such as outlines, paragraph headings or section headings.

It adds: “Failure to apply specified SQA assessment conditions in assessments, such as limits on resources or time available to candidates to complete their assessments would be considered to be centre malpractice.”