Scotland’s school qualifications system has gone backwards during the last decade, according to a union boss.

Delivering his final address to the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) AGM, general secretary Larry Flanagan said there was too much emphasis on "high-stakes exams". He also stressed that he believed strongly in the staff empowerment agenda.

“It’s about teacher agency, professional autonomy,” he told delegates gathered in Dundee's Caird Hall. “This is not an uncontested area in practice because, for teachers to be empowered, others have to give up power and those others include the Scottish Government, local authorities, educational agencies and even school management teams where collegiality is not the norm.”

Mr Flanagan said he was particularly concerned about exams and pupil assessment. “It’s not been a progressive decade,” he added. “Frankly we are in a poorer position today than we were ten years ago.

“We have a high-stakes exam system, a three-year treadmill... which the pandemic exposed as inherently inequitable. But we also have demonstrable evidence from the pandemic that pupils and parents trust teacher judgements. That should be the starting point for the review being led by [Professor] Louise Hayward.”

Mr Flanagan continued: “Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley in their latest book, Five Paths of Student Engagement, reference the challenges of the pandemic but also highlight the importance of analysing carefully lessons to be learned from what they describe as an accidental, real-time social experiment.

“The key lesson, I believe, is the absolutely critical role of the teacher and the teacher pupil interaction to the nurturing of wellbeing among children and as the basis of all successful learning. It may seem an obvious lesson for us but there are too many policy makers, far removed from school practice, who pay little more than lip service to this.”

Mr Flanagan later went on to say: “Politicians need to stop their constant bickering and lend Scotland’s teachers their full support.”