Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Tavish Scott MSP today said the SNP Government has resorted to "throwing its weight around like a playground bully" after it was revealed it has now instructed local authorities to deny parents' requests to withdraw their children from national testing.
The instruction was contained in a letter to council education directors published by TES Scotland. The Scottish Government stated that "parents don't have the option to opt out of the assessments" except in "exceptional circumstances".
This flatly contradicts the advice previously given by the Scottish Government and testing bosses to parents. For example, a freedom of information request showed the top testing official telling Glasgow City Council in March that "With respect to parental rights to withdraw, your parents is [sic] right that there is no legal requirement to sit the SNSA. On that basis the children can be withdrawn."
The new letter states that the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland (SOLAR) was of the view that that parents have no right to withdraw their children but it did not say whether the Scottish Government, the architect and driver of the national testing regime, had sought or received its own legal advice.
Tavish Scott commented:
"The way the Scottish Government has reacted to the prospect of a parental boycott of P1 tests is an insult to mums and dads. It has resorted to throwing its weight around like a playground bully.
"Ministers have broken the contract they signed with parents just 48 hours ago when a key step of their new engagement plan was to 'support parents to be active participants in the assessment and reporting process'. Now we see, when it comes to the SNP's flagship national testing policy, parents being told to zip it and get back in line.
"Parents should not be deterred. Meanwhile, teachers and schools, whose feedback has already shown detest these tests, will not take kindly to John Swinney demanding that they take on an enforcement role and deny parents' wishes to withdraw their children unless there are 'exceptional circumstances'.
"It is abundantly clear that ministers are more concerned about saving face than they are giving parents meaningful involvement in their children's education.
"It is time parents' rights were guaranteed and the SNP's national tests for five-year-olds were abolished altogether."