PRIMARY pupils in at least a quarter of councils are being tested twice a year, teachers have warned.

A survey by a teaching union found eight local authorities are continuing with their own standardised assessments despite the introduction of new Scottish Government tests.

When ministers announced the literacy and numeracy assessments for pupils in P1, P4, P7 and S3 they said the should replace existing tests.

However, teachers who responded to a survey by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said at least eight of Scotland 32 local authorities were continuing with previous standardised assessments - although it is unclear how long this will remain the case.

The EIS warned the practice of "double-testing" increases teacher workload and puts too much pressure on pupils.

The survey also suggested at least 25 councils had introduced "blanket testing" - where all pupils sit the assessments at the same time.

The Scottish Government has previously said teachers should have the freedom to decide when pupils sit the assessments.

An EIS spokeswoman said: "For these children, assessment was not an integral part of everyday learning and teaching and was not timed to support their individual learning. This was out of the hands of teachers."

The latest concerns over testing came on the day John Swinney, the Education Secretary, gave a statement to Scottish Parliament on the purpose of the assessments and whether parents had the right to opt out, which has caused confusion.

Mr Swinney used the statement to apologise to parliament for a "misleading" letter on controversial primary school tests sent by a senior civil servant.

The minister said that while he did not personally sign off on the letter from Graeme Logan, a deputy director at the Scottish Government's learning directorate, he took full responsibility for it.

However, Mr Swinney said he remained committed to the assessments at all levels, despite cross-party opposition and calls to "cut his losses" on the issue.

Mr Swinney said: "I did not sign off the letter that was issued by the deputy director to directors of education, but I take full responsibility for it because I'm a minister in the Scottish Government and it's right that I take full responsibility for it.

"I can only apologise to parliament ... for the events that took place in that respect, but I take responsibility for it because I should take responsibility for it."

He stressed that the substance of the letter was consistent with the Scottish Government's position - that while there is no statutory right for parents to withdraw their child from any aspect of schooling other than some parts of religious education, the tests were not compulsory.

Ross Greer, education spokesman for the Scottish Green Party, urged Mr Swinney to "cut his losses".

He said: "In the case of P1 tests it's quite clear that a majority of this parliament want to see them go and sooner or later that is what we're going to vote for."

Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, added: "Faced with the evidence of stress on four and five-year-olds caused by these tests, testimony from teachers that they are time-consuming and of little educational worth, and a campaign by parents to boycott them, he is carrying on regardless.

"In P1, at least, they should be suspended. I believe that's the view of this parliament and I hope we will have the chance to demonstrate that as soon as possible."

Mr Swinney said the assessments in P1 provided an early view of areas of weakness in literacy and numeracy that was vital in closing the attainment gap.

The assessments were introduced as a response to concerns over falling standards and a lack of consistent data.