Parent leaders have slammed the prospect of five-year-olds sitting controversial literacy and numeracy tests following a planned return to school this month.

The Scottish Government has confirmed National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) will “remain available” for teachers to deliver “at the point in the year they judge to be in the best interests of learners”.

Taken online in P1, P4, P7 and S3, they were introduced amid concern over sliding international performance scores in areas such as maths and science.

There is no pass or fail and children do not have to revise or prepare for them. Tests will not be made available remotely.

Officials said they were concerned about the possibility of inequality increasing as a result of Covid-19.

They added that “accurate and up-to-date information” on progress would help teachers support every pupil.

Schools are currently closed to all but key worker and vulnerable children as part of efforts to contain coronavirus.

It is hoped P1-3 youngsters, as well as those in early learning and childcare, will be able to return from February 22.

A final decision is due around February 16 and will depend on continued progress in suppressing Covid-19.

Parent campaigners have warned that literacy and numeracy tests are the last thing pupils need as they bid to get their learning back on track.

HeraldScotland: Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon updated MSPs on plans for the reopening of schools.Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon updated MSPs on plans for the reopening of schools.

Eileen Prior, executive director of parents’ organisation Connect, said: “We reconfirm our commitment to the campaign to end Scottish National Standardised Assessments for Primary 1 children.

“It beggars belief that anyone should seriously be proposing to put young children through SNSAs.

“These children have not been in school in recent weeks, and their entire school experience has been impacted by Covid-19.

“We feel all SNSAs should be cancelled this academic year.”

Sue Palmer, chair of the Upstart Scotland campaign, which wants to see a kindergarten stage introduced for children aged 3-7, also criticised plans to make the tests available.

Highlighting analysis which showed two thirds of teachers surveyed for the 2019 Reedy Review were critical or highly critical of P1 SNSAs, she said the emphasis after schools go back should be on development and recovery.

“We’re talking about the middle of a pandemic in which P1-age children have been particularly hard-hit by Covid,” she added.

“When they go back to school, the focus needs to be on health, wellbeing and overall development. They need the support, the opportunity, to recover – and they need caring, relationshipcentred teaching.

“They need a play-based curriculum, with activities taking place as often as possible outdoors, in green spaces.

“These are things which have been proved to be extremely protective for mental health. Literacy and numeracy can come later. Play is so important for their development, self-regulation, problem solving, everything.”

Ms Palmer said holding P1 assessments now would be a “terrible distraction” for five-year-olds and a waste of teachers’ time.

HeraldScotland: Education Secretary John Swinney.Education Secretary John Swinney.

“Any assessment of P1-age pupils should relate to their overall development – physical, social, emotional, cognitive – not literacy and numeracy,” she added.

“Upstart isn’t saying assessment isn’t important, but it must be appropriate to their age range.

“Tests of specific literacy and numeracy skills are exactly the opposite of what we need to provide for children right now in terms of their mental health.

The children are basically being used as pawns in some game to collect data.”

Andrea Bradley, EIS Assistant Secretary (Education & Equality), said the union remained “highly sceptical of the value of SNSAs even under normal circumstances”.

She added: “It would be a mistake, in the current circumstances, to place any pressure on teachers to apply standardised assessment of pupils.

“The main focus at the current time, amidst these quite abnormal circumstances, must be supporting young people’s learning and, equally, safeguarding their emotional wellbeing.

“The EIS is also concerned about the Scottish Government’s adherence, so far, to a ‘business as usual’ approach to the collection of CfE levels data.

“This threatens to dilute the efforts of teachers, schools and local authorities in prioritising pupils’ learning and wellbeing.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Closing the poverty-related attainment gap has been made harder by the impact of Covid-19, with lockdown and being out of school affecting vulnerable children and those in deprived areas the hardest. While our focus has been on the health, wellbeing and welfare of all pupils, we do not want inequality to widen.

“Accurate and up to date information about children’s progress helps teachers support all learners. National standardised assessments remain available for teachers to deliver as part of daily learning at the point in the year they judge to be in the best interests of learners.

“We do not expect schools to focus disproportionately on standardised assessments, or to divert children from learning to complete them. Standardised assessment will not be made available remotely – they will only be taken in schools, where learners will have access to the same support made available to them for all learning activities."