Teachers Vote To Boycott SATs

Unions say tests "focus on failure"

Teachers have voted to boycott next month's SAT tests for 11-year-olds, two major unions have announced.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) both said a majority of those who took part in their respective ballots had voted in favour of boycotting the exams.

The unions say that SATs in their current form are "bad for teachers, bad for children and bad for education". They say they would prefer a system of assessment that "highlights what children can do rather than focusing on failure".

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT, said: “We would like to see the next government introduce a national sampling system for English and mathematics tests in year 6, which they have already done for science in year 6 and for all subjects in year 9. A sampling system would give a national picture of pupil achievement without identifying individual schools or children. Parents would still find out how their child is progressing. Reports to parents would come from teacher assessment, as is currently done in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

Union leaders will meet next Wednesday to decide what action to take following the vote by senior school staff. Action would start on Tuesday 4 May - two days before the General Election.

Mick Brookes, General Secretary of the NAHT, said: ”This is a significant result for the NAHT. We have not conducted a national ballot in a quarter of a century. This ballot and the impending action was entirely avoidable. Both the NAHT and NUT put forward a viable alternative for 2010 that would have produced a more accurate summary of a child’s learning journey, would have reduced bureaucracy and would have saved the £23million spent on this year’s administrative arrangements. This system is a profligate waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The Key Stage 2 (KS2) SATs exams in English and maths are due to take place in primary schools from 10-13 May.

Commenting on the outcome of the unions' ballots, Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said: "Heads and teachers don't just have a statutory duty to make sure tests go ahead, but a professional responsibility to their pupils and their parents. A boycott of this year's tests would not be in children's best interests. We urge NAHT and NUT executive members - and heads and deputies round the country - to think hard over the next few days and to decide not to disrupt children's testing and learning.

"We have repeatedly made clear that we are committed to improving the assessment and accountability system to ensure it is fair to schools and teachers - and urged headteachers to keep talking with us in a professional manner about how we can shape our future reforms.

"The testing system is not set in stone. Our aim is to provide the best possible picture of the progress made by every pupil; provide parents with more information about the performance of their child and of local schools, and hold schools accountable in a way that better reflects their context and the breadth of outcomes that they achieve for their pupils.

"We believe these are the shared objectives of parents, headteachers and teachers around the country. We need to keep talking about the future of testing and accountability - and to not let children and parents down."

April 18, 2010