TEACHERS' leaders have rejected calls by Scotland's new Education Secretary to "step up the pace of change" in the classroom.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), called instead for a period of "consolidation and calm".

His comments came after Angela Constance challenged the teaching profession to do more to improve the performance of pupils in basic skills such as literacy and numeracy.

Ms Constance said she was "astonished" at survey findings which showed some subject teachers in secondary did not think reading and writing was "vital" and called for the profession to "step up the pace of change".

However, Mr Flanagan said teachers needed breathing space after the delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and new exams, which have led to a dramatic rise in classroom bureaucracy.

He said: "The last thing Scottish teachers need to hear at the moment is that the pace of change needs to be stepped up.

"Frankly, after a decade of constant change in introducing CfE and with workload pressure at an all time high, Scottish education could do with a period of consolidation and calm, allowing the new framework to take root and to then flourish."

Mr Flanagan went on to suggest it was "too simplistic" to suggest schools and teachers could overcome the attainment gap on their own.

"The will is there within schools to tackle these problems, but this will require additional resources for schools and increased support and professional development for teachers to equip the education system with the means to tackle these difficult societal challenges," he said.

Ms Constance issued her challenge to the profession after recent figures showed standards of literacy in Scottish primary and secondary schools are falling.

The Scottish Survey of Literacy found performance in reading dropped in primary schools between 2012 and 2014, as well as in the second year of secondary school.

Last year, the same survey found Scottish primary schools had experienced a dramatic decline in standards of numeracy.

At a speech to an audience of educational professionals at Glasgow University, Ms Constance said: "The results on numeracy and.... literacy show that we need to step up the pace of change. Frankly, it's not good enough that some children appear to be doing less well in basic skills the older they get."

Later, opposition politicians used a debate in the Scottish Parliament to attack the SNP's record on education.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour's finance spokeswoman, said too many young people in Scotland were getting left behind.

She said: "After eight years of in government, the SNP's appalling record on education is a scandal that shouldn't be tolerated."

"Saying you are against inequality and unfairness isn't the same as taking the radical action needed."

The Scottish Conservatives accused the Scottish Government of failing to track the educational performance of pupils because of the lack of standardised tests.

Mary Scanlon, the party's education spokeswoman, said: "It's a scandal there is no consistent approach to tracking and monitoring the progress of pupils."

"Over the last eight years in Government, the SNP have continued to fail to improve the educational attainment of our young people."