The National 4s do not include an external exam, and partly as a result of this local authorities are reducing study leave. Pupils will therefore spend more time on school premises than before, which in turn will reduce the amount of preparation time available for teachers at a critical juncture in terms of several new qualifications being introduced.
The NASUWT Scotland uncovered the trend while researching a survey into the effects of Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).
Mike Corbett, the union’s president, said: “Stopping pupils from developing an independent approach to revision seems to be a curious approach and does not sit well with what we are aspiring to do for and with them as confident individuals and successful learners.
“The huge amount of development work which secondary teachers manage to do during study leave would be significantly curtailed, a strange thing to want to have happen at a time when we are in the midst of implementing new national qualifications,” he said.
Mr Corbett admitted that National 4 courses did not require study leave, but said relatively few students would sit only those qualifications.
Hugh Donnelly, secretary of the Glasgow Educational Institute of Scotland union, said traditional study leave granted a “little bit of breathing space” for teachers to plan ahead – especially valuable since they had faced extra pressures this year with the introduction of the new qualifications.
The 2013/14 academic year has been bedevilled by teachers’ protests over workload and lack of resources, although both the SQA and Scottish government eventually made concessions last month over verification and extra funding for training.
Mr Donnelly accepted that study leave was not guaranteed contractually but said it was a tradition established over many years. Glasgow was phasing it out, he added, with Nationals affected initially, but study leave for Highers also ultimately due for elimination.