Controversial primary school tests will fuel the rise in pupils with special needs because of the anxiety it breeds amongst five-year-olds, an expert has warned.

Sue Palmer, chairwoman of the education charity Upstart Scotland, said pupils in the first year of primary should not be put under the pressure of tests on literacy and numeracy.

Earlier this month, The Herald revealed the number of pupils with additional support needs (ASN) has reached a record high at time when specialist support staff are being cut.

Ms Palmer’s comments came at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s education committee, which is assessing the impact of the Scottish National Standardised Assessments.

HeraldScotland: Sue PalmerSue Palmer

Labour MSP Johann Lamont asked her whether the tests would help schools identify pupils with issues such as autism or dyslexia.

She responded: “In many cases what we are doing is creating some of the additional support needs by focusing on specific skills at a very early age.

“If children are asked to do things they cannot do there is an emotional overlay and, if they are then placed in a remedial group, the children develop more problems as a result of having been asked to perform these tasks when they were not developmentally ready to do so.

“What we need is an assessment of wider development as well as proper diagnostic tests on the individual children.”