TESTS for Primary 1 pupils in Fife schools will continue after a narrow vote in favour of keeping them. 

A councillor had claimed the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSA) had “reportedly left some children in tears” but, acting on legal advice, the education and children's services committee decided they should stay. 

An agreed motion at last month's full council meeting called on Fife to withdraw, if possible, from the national scheme of testing for Primary 1 pupils. 

Head of education Peter McNaughton said in a report to Tuesday's committee: "Feedback from headteachers and staff indicates that, overall, they felt that there were significant elements of the SNSA process that required improvement."

He added that a "significant number of schools remain to be convinced of the immediate advantages of using SNSA at P1" but legal advice given to the council said they “would have to demonstrate that it had evidence that such withdrawal was a reasonable and proportionate step”.

Labour and Conservative councillors proposed immediate withdrawal from SNSA but a vote in favour of continuing with the P1 tests and bringing a detailed report back to committee following the review was passed by nine votes to eight.

Committee convener Councillor Fay Sinclair said: “It was very clear from all of the information presented by Fife’s education professionals that the case for withdrawal does not stack up.

“Much of the debate last month centred on reports of children being distressed and teachers being dead against the use of assessment at P1 level, but there is no evidence to suggest these reports are true.

“A P1 teacher came to demonstrate both the numeracy and literacy tasks and share her experiences of working with both the previous, bought-in PIPS assessment and the new SNSA. 

"She spoke of children enjoying the tasks and of how valuable the data gathered was. It is a shame that no Liberal Democrat or Conservative councillor attended this presentation to see the assessment for themselves.

"To take this tool away from our teachers would be neither reasonable or proportionate as a response to the issues raised in Fife. 

"I am pleased that committee agreed a better course of action would be to work constructively with the Scottish Government to improve the assessments and take an informed decision on their future use at the conclusion of the national review.”

Last month, Lib Dem education spokesperson, Councillor James Calder, said the Primary 1 tests had “reportedly left some children in tears” and warned that the assessments should be scrapped as they “could potentially lead to mental health issues”.

After Tuesday's vote he said: “It is extremely disappointing that a majority of councillors have been ignored and that P1s will continue to be tested in Fife. 

"This reflects the situation that the Scottish Government are ignoring the will of the Scottish Parliament on this issue.

“These tests are time-consuming and on average takes 32 minutes – that is 32 minutes of teaching time taken away from our children. 

"The EIS has also expressed reservations and it was telling that the report brought to councillors did not have any consultation with the trade unions.

“The SNSA tests for P1s continue to be discredited and the Scottish Government should start to listen.”