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About the campaign

Capture1Since Upstart Scotland launched our ‘Play Not Tests at P1’ campaign in April 2018 (see launch document), all Scotland’s five-year-olds have been required to sit tests in literacy and numeracy (you can read about them and the political controversy they caused here). In August 2018 we produced a 2-minute animated video explaining why five-year-old children need ‘play not tests’ and began urging parents to opt their children out of the tests.  We’ve produced postcards to make the process as easy as possible.

optout postcard

The postcards can be collected from ‘depots’ around the country (see current list), from the four other national organisations whose logo is on the card or by emailing us at To see the message to the head teacher, click on the picture.

Research shows NO long-term educational benefit to pressurising children in the three Rs at the age of five, but there may be long-term ill-effects in terms of mental health and well-being. As long as the P1 tests are there, it will be impossible for schools to provide the type of early years education that international research shows works best for the under-sevens.

There has been considerable confusion around the right of parents to opt their children out of the tests but as this article in the Times Educational Supplement for Scotland points out, this is certainly permitted in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Upstart argues that the current situation is indeed ‘exceptional’, as five-year-old children are being asked to sit tests that the Scottish Parliament has voted to scrap (at an age when many educational experts, including the British Educational Research Association, consider standardised tests unreliable). And, as a piece in the Herald pointed out, the ‘exceptional circumstances’ argument has been used in the past: in 2016, some 10,000 secondary students took advantage of it in respect of a controversy around Level 4 qualifications.

Since summer 2018, Upstart has worked with a growing coalition of national organisations who believe firmly that Play Not Tests is the way to go in P1/2.

In autumn 2018, the Scottish Government ignored a parliamentary vote to ditch the P1 tests, instead setting up an Independent Review of the Primary 1 SNSA which reported in June 2019. Upstart submitted evidence to this review, pointing out that all the deleterious effects of national standardised testing are particularly damaging for children under the age of eight, when children’s ability to process symbolic information is hugely variable and can be profoundly affected by physical, social, emotional and cultural  factors. We also submitted written evidence to a Parliamentary Education Committee review of the SNSAs in general and gave oral evidence to the committee on 30-1-19 (our contribution starts about 1 hour 20 minutes from the beginning).

Throughout this period, Upstart supporters orchestrated a chalking campaign, with pictures on social media.

Chalking collage 6-9-18


Collage 15-9-18

22-9-18 collage

Nevertheless, despite the huge amount of evidence against standardised testing of such young children, the Scottish government continues to develop and administer the P1 SNSA and in June 2019, Professor Reedy’s Independent Review supported this decision, apparently taking no notice of the P1 teachers verdict on the SNSA (66% of responses were critical and only 3% made favourable comments). Upstart submitted a detailed response and has continued to oppose the tests as part of our campaign for a relationship-centred, play-based kindergarten stage.

In February 2021, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish government informed us that the P1 tests would be administered at some point during the rest of the school year. Primary children were at the time being home-schooled because of the second lockdown, but scheduled to return to school around the end of the month. It seemed inconceivable that the Scottish government would expect teachers to assess literacy and numeracy when there were so many other pressing issues to concentrate on, not least the children’s physical safety and mental health. The controversy was covered in the Herald.

You can see our leaflet on Play Not Tests for P1 here. Copies are available by contacting us at The latest information about the ongoing controversy can be found on What Are The P1 Tests? on this website and you can keep up to date with the campaign by registering for our monthly newsletter (see website front page) or following us on social media:  Twitter (@UpstartScot) and Facebook (Upstart Scotland).