SATS boycott backed by unions

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Teachers have backed a boycott of next month's Sats tests for 11-year-olds, according to the results of ballots by the National Association of Head Teachers and some members of the National Union of Teachers.

The National Union of Teachers said a ballot of its leadership members found that 74.9% of those who voted were in favour of a boycott of the tests.

The National Association of Head Teachers said its ballot found that 61.3% of members who voted were in favour.

Both unions’ executives will be meeting shortly to take decisions on any action to boycott SATs in 2010. Action would start on Tuesday 4 May. SATs are scheduled to take place in schools from 10-13 May.

The unions argue that the tests are bad for children, teachers and education, and cause unnecessary stress. They also want to see school league tables abolished.

The NUT and NAHT are supportive of a system of assessment that highlights what children can do rather than focussing on failure. In that regards, the unions want the Sats to be replaced with teacher assessment.

In England, teachers already have to report their assessments of children in the last year of primary school to the government.

This year, for the first time, those assessments will be published alongside schools' Sats results.

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.”

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 unions have insisted that any boycott would be industrial action and would not amount to a strike. The boycott would entail head teachers and their deputies not opening the packets of test papers when they are delivered to their schools.

Turnout in the ballot was just under 50% among NAHT members and of those who voted, 61.3% supported the action.

At the NUT, turnout was nearly 34% and 74.9% of those who returned their papers backed the boycott.