SCOTLAND’S qualifications system is still failing to address the needs of thousands of pupils because of the way it has been implemented, according to new figures.

Record numbers of pupils who achieved a National 4 qualification in 2017 did so after failing the more demanding National 5, statistics from the Scottish Qualification Agency’s (SQA) show.

In August last year there were 107,631 awards at National 4 with 24,211 achieved as a result of candidates being unsuccessful at National 5.

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The figures are concerning because they show the proportion of pupils being entered for qualifications that they are not necessarily suited to is on the increase.

Although these pupils eventually secured a National 4 by undertaking additional internal assessments critics argue the experience of “failing” National 5 is negative.

It also means schools have not yet come to terms with the raft of different academic and vocational qualifications that are available under the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

Earlier this year, the Scottish Government issued fresh guidance calling on teachers to make sure pupils were presented for the right qualifications. Work is also underway to review National 4 qualifications to make them more appealing.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union, said the recent removal of classroom-based assessments that allowed pupils the fallback to National 5 would improve the situation.

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He said: "The changes which have been enacted will greatly reduce the number of pupils achieving National 4 as a result of this.

"This is only intended as a temporary option for a small cohort of pupils, with greater emphasis being placed on matching pupils to the correct course in the first instance."

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said it was vital pupils were entered for appropriate qualifications.

She said: "Young people respond well when they are encouraged to aim high and to work hard to achieve their goals and this is about what is right for each young person.

"In schools where communications between parents, pupils and teachers was good, schools did not come under pressure from parents to enter their children for National 5s where this was not recommended."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "It is vital that young people obtain qualifications that fully reflect their achievements and National 4 is a key part of our national qualifications and should be recognised as such.

“It is important that pupils are presented at the correct level of qualification. Candidates should not be entered for a qualification aspiring to achieve a D, where they have a better chance of achieving a pass at a different level.

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“The guidance issued from the Assessment and National Qualifications group in March this year conveys the importance of well-informed and accurate presentation decisions, and we expect schools to proactively support this."

A spokesman for the SQA said: “The decisions regarding the most appropriate progression pathway for individual learners should be made by teaching staff, who are best placed to make those decisions based on their knowledge of the student.”