A boycott on SATS

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Teachers are set to boycott next year's Sats tests for 11-year-olds in England, following a vote by the National Association of Head Teachers, arguing that the tests put pressure on children and narrow the curriculum.

Eleven-year-olds due to take Sats next spring will not be prepared for the tests, Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said.

He went on to say that parents are being misled by claims from schools secretary Ed Balls that child's education will suffer if a boycott goes ahead.

Mr Brooks said: "Some parents will be alarmed by what Ed Balls is saying about disruption to education; we need to reassure parents that's not the case and they are being misled."

He went on: "It is extraordinary that the Department for Children, Schools and Families think that spending up to 10 hours a week preparing for the tests is not disrupting children's education. They clearly do not spend enough time in schools."

Mr Brookes added: "We are advising that they shouldn't be prepared for the tests at all.

"They should have a normal education in Year 6, such as was enjoyed by children 15 years ago.

"NAHT's historic vote to end the tyranny of testing will mean that Year 5 children will for the first time in 15 years have a final year of education in their primary schools that is not disrupted by Sats."

He added: "Schools will no longer be exposed to the humiliation of league table misrepresentation."

Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, called on heads not to take irresponsible action at the NAHT annual conference, saying: "We must ensure that parents and the public get the information they want and need about the progress of every primary age child and the performance of every primary school.

"It would not be right to abolish Key Stage 2 tests."

However, the president of the National Association of Head Teachers, Chris Howard, said there would be no end to its campaign until the "tyranny of testing and league tables" was over.

They are arguing that Heads and teachers all dislike the tests and the league tables made from them, because they are forced to "teach to the test," focussing most on the three subjects tested, English, maths and science.

The NAHT want the tests replaced by assessment of pupils by teachers, which already takes place.

The NAHT has now joined the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in calling for strike action over the national curriculum tests in maths and English for 7 and 11-year-old children.

However, The Times newspaper has suggested that the teaching unions should make constructive proposals rather than striking, arguing that the NAHT is wrong on three counts:

Firstly, that head teachers complain that a poor showing in the primary schools league table can cost heads their position. Such an explicit defence of reward for failure would be inadmissible anywhere else, so it should inadmissible as a defence in schools too.

Secondly, teachers are wilfully missing the point about the purpose of the tests, says The Times. The information is designed to supply parents with a meaningful basis on which to make decisions about their children.

Thirdly, the head teachers say that the tests have distorted the curriculum, and that teachers are forced to concentrate on English, maths and science. However, argues The Times, schools should be concentrating on these three subjects anyway.

Mr Brookes said that the NAHT will work with other unions and the DCSF to find a solution which means they do not have to resort to industrial action.

But he added: "If that agreement cannot be found, we will go to our national membership in England, to vote for a boycott of Sats in 2010."

Margaret Morrissey, of campaign group Parents Outloud said she agreed with the vote.

"If a parent feels as strongly as the parents I've been involved with do, if they feel their child is traumatised by the tests and their family life is being disrupted, they should support the head teachers on this, and if they can't stop it, then don't send the child to school in Sats week."

04/05/09

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