Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, insists testing is essential not just to the fulfilment of the 5-14 programme but to his whole strategy of setting performance targets and raising standards.
Mr Wilson decided in June that tests would not be made statutory. In return, he expected secondary schools to press on with full implementation of the 5-14 reforms, including testing, saying that the delay of a year in introducing Higher Still should give secondaries a breathing space.
The latest unpublished figures show that primary schools are testing around half of their pupils annually, which is virtually complete coverage since each of the five A-E levels of 5-14 takes two years to complete.
The secondary figures are understood to be "coming up" but have not advanced much beyond the last full-year returns under the previous government. These showed that testing rates in reading, writing and maths were 9 per cent, 5 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.
The problems with writing are continuing in secondary, and testing levels in primary are noticeably lower for writing than for reading and maths. Mr Wilson is expected to stress the importance to his early intervention programme of gauging performance in written work.
Figures issued by Moray confirm the primary-secondary testing divide. The number of primary pupils tested during August-December 1997 compared with the same period the previous year was up 17 per cent in reading, 48 per cent in writing, and 38 per cent in maths. But the nine secondaries in Moray show wild fluctuations - down from 86 pupils to 18 tested in reading, a fall from 62 to 12 in writing, and an increase from 29 to 278 in maths.