Sats boycott will cause tests chaos

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Teachers have announced plans to boycott next month's Sats tests for 11-year-olds, following an earlier ballot by the National Association of Head Teachers.

Mick Brookes, head of the NAHT, said there would be no pressure on heads who did not want to take part in the boycott.

Head teachers are also divided on the planned  boycott. But many insist that the Sats tests are 'meaningless' which only serve to 'humiliate and demean children'.

The announcement of the action against Sats tests follows a ballot by the NAHT 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.

Schools Secretary, Ed Balls, urged head teachers to think hard before disrupting children's learning. He said: "Over two-thirds of their own members did not vote to support disrupting tests.

"Pupils and teachers have been working hard all year and they should all be given the opportunity to demonstrate their achievements. It would be very unfair if some children were prevented from doing so at the last minute."

Mr Balls said he would issue advice to governors and local authorities on the threat of a boycott.

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.”

Meanwhile, Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said that most heads and deputy heads do not support industrial action to disrupt this year's tests. He 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."