TEACHERS have been told to intervene in controversial P1 tests if pupils become distressed.

The recommendation comes after concerns some five-year-old pupils were left "shaking and crying" when the assessments were introduced.

Following the widespread controversy over the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) the Scottish Government set up the P1 Practitioner Forum.

The forum's report, published yesterday, said if a child became distressed for any reason "the educator has a professional and moral responsibility to intervene".

It added: "Although many educators would find this advice unnecessary, some forum members feel ... instruction should be explicitly stated.

READ MORE: Primary school testing is not child abuse

"The nature of the SNSAs involves children in engaging with some items that they will find challenging and teachers should consider children’s reactions to these."

The report goes on to emphasise procedures for giving children breaks during the assessments - although this should be recorded as part of the assessment result.

John Swinney, the Education Secretary, welcomed the report and said improved guidance for teachers would help them support children.

He accepted recommendations to ensure the SNSAs could be delivered in a way that was compatible with a play-based classroom environment.

And he said it would be made clear the tests were not "high stakes" and were intended to help teachers with their judgements of a child's progress.

The report also warned over a lack of information available to teachers about administering the assessments.

READ MORE: Five-year-olds left 'shaking and crying'

It said: “A few had been given little or no information about their children’s reaction to the SNSA or what the assessment could show. This is obviously not ideal.

"Even those who implemented the SNSA with their own class did not always appreciate the range of implementation decisions they could make.”

One teacher told the forum: “I was amazed about what other people had been told.

"I didn’t know we could stop mid-way, that there were practice activities they could do beforehand or that I could let children choose what technology to use.”

The report said the current online training strategies for teachers were “poorly advertised” and that council meetings “did not always reach P1 classroom teachers”.

There was no printed manual that described what the SNSA offered or how it worked, the report said.

However, many critics wanted to see the assessments scrapped altogether amidst concern the stress of the tests left children "shaking and crying".

Sue Palmer, chair of the Upstart Scotland campaign for play-based education, said all tests at that age would be considered high stakes "no matter how many guidelines the government produces".

She said: "The very existence of national standardised tests in literacy and numeracy for five-year-olds is totally incompatible with play-based learning and will inevitably affect teaching practice in ways that will be damaging for many children.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said the teaching union was "unconvinced" of the need for standardised assessments in P1.

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He said: "They were not designed to be compatible with a play based approach, and no amount of guidance on their use alters this basic weakness."

There was also concern over the timing of the announcement, with the suggestion Mr Swinney was getting his retaliation in first.

The decision to publish the forum's report was taken in advance of the separate report of an independent review of P1 assessments, led by David Reedy.

Ms Palmer said: "An independent review of the P1 assessments is due to report next month. Why wasn’t this forum postponed until that decision?"

Mr Flanagan added: "The Scottish Government has commissioned an independent review of their role so it seems strange this particular report, which the EIS has not endorsed, has been published ahead of the review findings.”

Tavish Scott, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said the last thing teachers needed was "yet more guidance to plough through".

He added: "The government’s own review of testing has not yet reported so why would they throw out these recommendations? Once again, the government makes it up as they go along.”

Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, said the reforms were "farcical" given a vote in the Scottish Parliament to scrap the tests in P1.

He said: "Not only has John Swinney ignored that for months, he is now ignoring his own independent review by pre-empting it."

However, the Scottish Government said the immediate changes introduced as result of the forum report were to improve practical advice for teachers administering the assessments over the coming weeks.

A spokeswoman said: "The independent review will take any recommendations from the forum into account, however it’s remit is much wider, focusing on the compatibility of assessments with the curriculum, the usefulness of the diagnostic information the assessments provide and the future of the assessments.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon introduced the assessments for all pupils in P1, P4, P7 and S3 as a response to concerns over falling standards of literacy and numeracy.