School students should not sit exams before fifth year, according to a major report on the future of the qualifications system.
The report also argues that a wider range of assessment measures should be used for Highers and Advanced Highers.
The review was carried out for the Scottish government by one of Scotland’s leading experts on education Prof Louise Hayward.
The Scottish government said it would carefully consider the report.
It added that it would respond fully in due course.
Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth said: “I am very grateful to Professor Hayward and members of the review group for the time and effort they have given to bring this report together.
“These recommendations for reform could amount to a radical shift in Scottish education. As cabinet secretary I need to be certain that these changes are the right ones for Scotland’s young people – and I am determined that the voices of teachers will be central to this process.”
Other recommendations in the Hayward Report include:
- Introducing a Scottish Diploma of Achievement as a graduation certificate for all senior phase educational settings
- A digital profile for all learners which allows them to record personal achievements and identify and plan future learning
Meanwhile, the government said it would not be introducing legislation to replace the qualifications authority, the SQA, at present.
However, it is still its intention to do this at a later stage.
The Scottish government announced its intention to replace the SQA two years ago.
Ms Gilruth told parliament: “The challenges faced by the teaching profession in responding to our post-pandemic school communities won’t be helped by legislation.
“Nor can I expect tangible engagement on the outputs of future qualifications if parliament is focused on legislating for these bodies.
“Instead, focus must be brought back to our children and young people and improving their educational outcomes.”
David Middleton, chairman of the SQA said: “The Hayward report sets out an ambitious programme of change and reform to assessment and qualifications.
“We will respond to the report more fully in due course. We are positive about change, but we must ensure change can be delivered successfully across the education system, to ensure fairness to learners, and the ongoing integrity and credibility of our qualifications system.
‘Reforms must be substantial’
He added: “In June 2021, it was announced that SQA was to be replaced. Today, the cabinet secretary for education and skills has said that the time is not right for legislation to replace SQA.
“However, she has made clear that work will continue to create new national bodies. SQA will continue to contribute to that work as it has done since 2021.”
Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, said “bold and innovative change” was needed to build a qualifications system that meets the needs of all pupils.
The union’s general secretary, Andrea Bradley, said reducing the emphasis on exams would “provide space for greater breadth, depth, and enjoyment of learning” and “deliver positive change for all of Scotland’s young people”.
But she said any changes must not impact on the workload of teachers and must be accompanied by “significant additional investment” from the government.
Scottish Conservatives education spokesman Stephen Kerr said: “Scotland’s education system is in dire need of reform after 16 years of SNP failure.
“These reforms must be substantial and cannot just be a superficial paint job – we need to see urgent action now. The SNP need to stop kicking the can down the road and Jenny Gilruth must embrace the need for bold, innovative change.”