The Scottish Government is to introduce regulations limiting class sizes in P1 to 25 pupils and launched a review of class size arrangements across all other school stages
Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop justified the move as a means of giving local authorities "the legal protection they require to limit P1 class sizes to 25" in the face of placing requests from parents.
But the SNP's political opponents sought to portray it as a "personal humiliation" for Alex Salmond, the First Minister, and an abandonment of the party's commitment to introducing class-size cuts to 18 for P1-3.
The Labour Party also pounced on new figures published by the Office of National Statistics showing that the number of nursery teachers had fallen by 34 this year, following a fall of 14 last year.
Rhona Brankin, Scottish Labour's education spokeswoman, said: "The First Minister promised more nursery teachers, but numbers are down again. No amount of spin can change the facts of the matter. Numbers are down and Fiona Hyslop should apologise to parents."
John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, welcomed the fact that councils would now have a legal mechanism to support them in their drive to cut class sizes.
However, he added, education authorities would rather the Scottish Government had devolved more legal powers to them to set their own class size limits. It was all very well introducing regulations to cap P1 classes at 25, but any attempts to cut class sizes further would require fresh legislation.
Ms Hyslop said: "Our priority is to ensure a solid foundation in the early years of school for every pupil. The regulations announced today, with our comprehensive review of regulations governing class sizes, will take us a step closer to doing that and delivering on our commitments."
Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "While the decision to set P1 classes to a maximum of 25 is less than our aspiration, this is a step in the right direction and provides a platform for enabling all class size maxima in law. We need to build on this quickly in the years ahead."