THE controversial roll-out of primary school tests took place in an “information vacuum” for parents, a national body has said.

The warning comes after a national campaign was launched urging parents to opt children out of the literacy and numeracy assessments in P1.

The tests are supposed to help teachers assess the academic levels pupils have achieved when they first come to school.

They are then used to judge progress throughout their school career with further testing in P4, P7 and S3.

However, critics argue testing five-year-olds is meaningless because levels of maturity are so different.

There have also been concerns that pupils have found the assessments stressful - partly in cases where whole classes have sat the tests against government guidance.

Joanna Murphy, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS), praised the information from the assessments.

In a letter to The Herald she said: “I have seen sample results ... and the information available to teachers is exceptional.

“It provides details of a child’s specific skills, knowledge and understanding, which enhances the teacher’s judgement.”

However, Ms Murphy said a full understanding of the roll-out and purpose of the assessments had never been passed on to parents.

The NPFS previously suggested that letters should be sent to all P1 parents to ensure they fully understood the Scottish National Standardised Assessments.

She said: “They [Scottish Government] believed it would result in unnecessary profile raising, but as we made clear, and we are now seeing, when there is a vacuum of information it allows for fear and anxiety to spread.

“What is of most concern is that parents are not getting the clear, balanced information they need to be able to decide whether assessment is right for their child.

“This issue is wider than the standardised assessments, it is about a repeated lack of good direct communication from schools, local authorities and Scottish Government to parents.”

Tavish Scott, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, accused the government of “deliberately confusing” parents over their right to withdraw children from national testing.

Advice on whether pupils can opt out has been conflicting with some internal documents suggesting the test are not compulsory.

The most recent government statement says there is no formal legal right to withdraw - because the tests themselves are not statutory - but suggests parent should talk to their school if they want to opt out.

John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, welcomed the view that standardised assessments could provide “exceptional” information.

He added: “Parent organisations worked with the Scottish Government to co-produce information leaflets for parents, carers and teachers about the standardised assessments which were sent to all schools last summer.

“We expect schools to communicate effectively with parents, and parents can talk to their child’s school at any time.

“Following a review of the first year of assessments, we will shortly set out changes and enhancements to the system for this year, including enhanced communication with parents.”

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.