MINISTERS are coming under increasing pressure not to publish school-level results of new standardised tests for pupils.

Instead, the Scottish Government is being urged to use existing benchmarks which show how well pupils are progressing under Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

Teaching unions argue the publication of test data will lead to the creation of crude league tables which unfairly compare schools serving different catchment areas.

There is also a concern publication of results on their own creates an environment in which teachers focus on getting as many pupils as possible to pass the test which can limit rather than broaden their education.

While any move not to publish test data would be seen as a climbdown by political opponents, benchmarking by curriculum levels is preferable to unions because they are based on the professional judgement of teachers – with the new tests helping to inform that judgement.

The development comes as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon prepares to announce further details of the new National Improvement Framework at an international education conference in Glasgow.

Ms Sturgeon announced last year that standardised testing for primary and secondary pupils was to be reintroduced after the biennial Scottish Survey of Literacy found standards of reading and writing were falling despite the introduction of CfE, which was expected to raise basic standards.

Although most councils use standardised tests, the Scottish Government is concerned there is no national picture of how well different schools are performing. In addition, some councils do not collate the existing CfE levels which identify how well pupils are performing.

The publication of league tables is also likely to be more difficult to achieve because the Scottish Government has already announced that the new computerised tests are likely to be diagnostic and predictive in nature.

That means it would be harder to compare different schools because the questions would change in difficulty depending on the answers given by individual pupils. However, a sample of the results of the tests could be anonymised and used at a national level to identify how well schools are performing.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "The potential misuse of assessment data to support league tables and inappropriate target setting is the greatest concern around standardised assessments.

“Parents and pupils are entitled to useful assessment feedback, but it should be focused on improving learning not ticking political boxes.”

Ms Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament yesterday: "In the coming weeks, we will set out further plans to achieve both excellence and equity in education, building on the work we are doing already through the Scottish Attainment Challenge.

"Indeed this will start tomorrow, when I publish the new National Improvement Framework, to ensure that our focus on closing the attainment gap is driven by robust evidence on children's progress in primary and early secondary school."