The Scottish Government is considering a major overhaul of the current system, which relies on standardised tests to assess how well pupils are progressing in reading, writing and mathematics.

The Herald understands that, although traditional tests will still be part of the overall framework, they will no longer

be the only benchmark of attainment and far greater emphasis will be placed on the professional judgment of teachers.

Fiona Hyslop, the Education Secretary, is aiming to improve the assessment of a child’s progress alongside the development of the new Curriculum for Excellence -- which seeks to develop a wide range of skills.

Currently, pupils in primary are given tests in reading, writing and maths to ensure they have reached certain levels of attainment, usually in P4 and P7 or in S1 and S2. Tests are taken when a teacher

considers a child is ready to move on to the next level, rather than at a set time, and the papers are not externally marked.

Critics of the current system argue that teachers simply prepare pupils to pass the tests and that their simplistic nature assesses the retention of knowledge rather than wider skills, such as using

literacy in a history class.

That means that when pupils from different primary schools join a secondary -- all having passed the same test -- they can exhibit very different levels of basic skills.

A government document outlining the principles behind the changes said: “This will promote higher quality learning and teaching and give more autonomy and professional responsibility to teachers. This will support greater breadth and depth of learning and place a greater focus on skills development.

“A national system of quality assurance will be developed to support teachers in achieving greater consistency and confidence in their professional judgments.”

The document said a new assessment resource would be developed to help teachers achieve greater consistency and understanding of their professional judgments and that they would also be given training to develop the necessary skills.

Last night, Larry Flanagan, education convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland, welcomed the move.

“These proposals set out an improved assessment system to support the broad educational experience that is central to the Curriculum for Excellence,” he said.

“The outline assessment arrangements are a significant step forward which will support teachers’ professional judgment in assessing how individual pupils are progressing in their learning.”

However, Rhona Brankin, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Labour Party ,attacked the document as a mixture of “management-speak and gobbledegook”.

“There is nothing in this paper that gives any assurance to parents that their child will be able to read at age 11. It’s as simple as that. There is no assessment or test of reading before children leave primary school,” she said.

“Children who cannot read at 11 will most often leave school unable to read at 16. There needs to be an assessment at primary school that picks up those children who are struggling to read and action taken to help them.”

Meanwhile, there was a mixed reaction to the Government’s plans to legislate to reduce class sizes to 25 in the first year of primary school -- revealed in The Herald yesterday.

Opposition parties accused Ms Hyslop of dumping an SNP commitment to cut class sizes to 18 for the first three years of primary.

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “The SNP misled voters with this misguided policy. It was nothing more than a cynical exercise in buying votes.”

However, Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the EIS, said: “While the decision to set P1 classes to a maximum of 25 is less than our aspira-tion, this is clearly a step in the right direction and

provides a platform for enabling all class size maxima in law.”