THE controversial policy of testing Scottish five-year-olds is “descending into chaos”, opposition politicians have said.

The attack comes after the launch of a national campaign to derail the assessments in P1.

Under the move, families with children starting school this week have been invited to withdraw their children from the contentious literacy and numeracy tests, introduced last year.

Some 30,000 postcards published by the Upstart Scotland literacy charity have been despatched across the country through key campaign supporters including the charities Play Scotland and Children in Scotland, national parent body Connect and the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union.

Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, said: “Schools across Scotland are returning to an SNP omnishambles.

“We have a testing policy descending into chaos as it faces a major campaign by parents and a potential teacher boycott.

“In addition, there are hundreds of unfilled teaching posts across the country and teachers on the verge of industrial action.”

Mr Gray called on John Swinney, the Education Secretary, to suspend the tests.

He said: “He cannot keep defending a discredited policy that is opposed by parents pupils, teachers and the unions.

“These tests are driving children to tears and do nothing to help teachers close the attainment gap.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson also called for the P1 assessments to be scrapped “without delay”, saying she agreed with the EIS, who want the tests dropped following concern from teachers.

Her Liberal Democrat counterpart, Willie Rennie, has already called for a parliamentary vote on abolishing the tests.

He said: “How many teachers and parents have to boycott these tests before the Education Secretary finally listens?”

A Scottish Government spokesman said changes and improvements would be announced soon following a review of the first year of assessments.

He said: “The Scottish National Standardised Assessments ensure for the first time that all schools will undertake the same assessments, providing consistency and an important means for teachers to identify children’s next steps in learning.

“That is especially valuable in early years if we are to continue to close the attainment gap.

“Our approach was developed after extensive engagement with teachers, parents, children and academics. Teachers have the flexibility to manage the assessments to ensure that they are a positive experience for all children.”

The spokesman said there was no formal legal right for parents to withdraw children from elements of school teaching they didn’t like.

But he added: “If a parent did not wish their child to take part ... they should discuss this with the school who have the discretion to decide whether the child takes part in any given activity.”

The Upstart Scotland campaign encourages parents to sign a postcard, fill in their child’s name and send it to the headteacher. The postcards state: “I do not want my child to sit the primary 1 tests of literacy and numeracy.

“I firmly believe that national standardised assessment of this kind is not developmentally appropriate for young children.”

The tests in P1 are part of a raft of new assessments to help teachers judge the progress of pupils, with further testing in P4, P7 and S3. The government argues testing in the first year of primary is important because it gives an idea of what level pupils are at when they come to school.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon introduced the assessments as a response to concerns over falling standards of literacy and numeracy and a lack of consistent data across the country. However, critics claim they are too stressful for the youngest pupils.

Feedback from the first year of the tests highlighted a number of cases where pupils were left distressed.

However, it appears this is likely to be because whole groups of pupils are being tested at the same time, which runs counter to government guidance.