SCHOOLS are facing a clampdown after concerns teachers are providing improper levels of coaching to help pupils pass vital qualifications.

Scotland’s exam body has written to schools warning them they face more random spot checks with less notice than in the past.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) also said its officials would tell schools which coursework would be assessed rather than taking a sample provided by teachers.

This summer it emerged that record numbers of teachers were being investigated for providing improper levels of coaching.

Typical cases involve pupils being provided with model answers, teachers giving too much feedback on work to be assessed or submitting false marks.

In a letter to schools, Dr Janet Brown, the SQA’s chief examining officer, said: “Random sampling is an important aspect of quality assurance as it gives us a broader, more accurate picture of internal assessment across centres.

“We will increase the volume of random selections of internally assessed course components.

“Increasing the volume of random selections will enhance the robustness of our quality assurance process.”

Ms Brown said in some cases the SQA would request that schools provide evidence from specific candidates rather than teachers choosing the samples for them.

And she said in some cases schools would given less notice than they were used to.

The letter prompted an angry backlash from teaching unions who said the SQA was heaping further pressure on staff at a time when teachers are leaving the profession.

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said: “Schools will be increasing the workload and stress of pupils and teachers just in case SQA show-up. Instead of workload decreasing, we will end up with more scrutiny and distrust of teachers professionalism and judgment.

“The SQA would be far better encouraging schools not to waste their time completing units which are not necessary for the vast majority of pupils.”

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union described the move as “wilfully insensitive”.

He said: “The SQA can expect an angry reaction to this latest course of ill-judged action which implies a lack of trust in the teachers whose solid professionalism has ensured, against a very torrid backdrop, the sound delivery of the qualifications since their inception.

“At a time when the SQA should be looking to regain the trust and confidence of the profession, it is announcing action that will effectively cancel out work to alleviate workload issues.”

He added: “Changing the goalposts yet again will intensify the associated bureaucracy and stress at a time when teacher morale is already at rock-bottom.”

Where teachers are found to have breached the rules the SQA can lower candidate marks or even prevent a school or department from running future courses.

The situation has arisen after the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence which placed less of an emphasis on the final exam in qualifications such as National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher. National 4 is entirely assessed on pupil coursework.