PARENTS were ‘misled’ in a letter from a top civil servant over their right to opt children out of controversial primary school tests, it has been claimed.

Last week, Graeme Logan, a deputy director in the Scottish Government’s learning directorate, sent a letter to councils stating parents did not have the right to opt out apart from “exceptional circumstances”.

Mr Logan quoted advice from the Society of Local Authority Lawyers in Scotland (Solar) stating: “Solar have advised us that parents don’t have the option to opt out of the assessments, explaining that all children ... will participate.”

However, a spokesman for Solar told The Herald the body did not provide a view to the Scottish Government on the literacy and numeracy assessments.

He said: “Solar has not advised the Scottish Government that parents don’t have the option to opt out of the assessments. Solar does not have an agreed position on this matter and has therefore not provided any formal or informal view.

“To clarify, Solar works alongside other stakeholders, including the Scottish Government, on a number of matters, but we cannot and do not provide any stakeholder with legal advice.”

Last night, the Scottish Government said they had worked closely with Solar during the development of the assessments.

The Herald:

A spokeswoman said: “Having asked Solar for a view, we received a response and communicated that to directors of education in good faith.”

The confusion over where the opt out advice had come from provoked a backlash from opposition politicians.

Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, said it was “utterly unacceptable” for parents to have been misled and called for an apology.

He said: “Parents and teachers who were appalled when Mr Logan told them pupils could not opt out of these tests will be further shocked to discover the letter was based on an assertion which does not appear to be true.”

Liz Smith, education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservative Party, said the government ‘s position on P1 testing was in "utter confusion".

She said: "Worse still, it seems the Scottish Government has issued misinformation to the directors of education and has therefore confused matters even more. This is wholly unacceptable."

Tavish Scott, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, called for Mr Logan's letter to be withdrawn immediately.

He said: "It is absolutely unacceptable behaviour by the government and yet another incident from blundering ministers intent on

making life difficult for parents."

There was also concerns from the members of a campaign set up to encourage parents in P1 to opt out of the assessments.

Eileen Prior, executive director of parent organisation Connect, described the revelation as "shocking".

She said: "It is very disturbing that this misinformation was used to support the government’s stance on standardised assessments.

"Schools acting on this advice might find themselves in direct conflict with parents at what should be an exciting time for new P1 families."

Sue Palmer, chair of literacy charity Upstart Scotland, said: "Parents have the right to withdraw their children from the P1 tests, but thanks to this strange letter many headteachers are under the impression that this right doesn’t exist unless there are exceptional circumstances."

A spokeswoman for the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union said the episode was "very concerning" and confusing for parents and teachers.

She said: "We fully support the right of parents to opt their children out of standardised assessments. Where parents have concerns or state a clear wish to opt their children out we would advise that parents make this known to the headteacher."

Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said: "There is no legal basis for insisting that P1 children be tested. There is also zero credible evidence that children will benefit from being tested at this early age.

"It's time to call a halt to this wasteful and damaging approach, which is opposed by organisations across the education sector."

The government stressed that parents had no statutory right to withdraw their child from any aspect of schooling - other than some parts of religious education.

The Scottish Government spokeswoman added: "If a parent does not wish their child to take part in an aspect of teaching and learning, they can discuss this with their school. This is the same position as has existed for decades."

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 with feedback highlighting cases where pupils were left distressed - particularly when whole groups were assessed together.