Principals to Boycott Tests in England

School principals in England have voted overwhelmingly to boycott national tests for Year 6 students to be held in May. It will be the first boycott of national tests for 17 years. It will coincide with the teacher boycott of national literacy and numeracy tests in Australia next month.

The two biggest teacher unions in England – the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) – balloted principals and their deputies on whether to “frustrate the administration” of the maths and English tests used to publish school league tables.

Nearly two-thirds – 61% – of the NAHT members who voted were in favour of a boycott, while 75% of the NUT members voted for the boycott.

Teachers want ministers to abolish the tests, commonly called the Sats, because they are used to compile league tables that unfairly stigmatise schools with the most challenging pupils, and turn children’s last year of primary school into a repetitive drilling for the tests.

The unions say the tests are bad for children’s education – because teachers are forced to “teach to the test” and concentrate so much on the “three Rs” that other subjects are squeezed out of the curriculum.

They want to see tests replaced by national sampling tests and greater reliance on teacher assessment.

Several parent groups have supported the boycott, saying they trusted teachers to know more about education than the government.

Margaret Morrissey, from Parents Outloud, said she hoped politicians would now listen to the majority of parents and teachers. “We fully support the teacher unions’ vote to boycott Sats tests and hope politicians will now listen to the majority voice of parents and teachers,” she said.

I wish every teacher would boycott the tests – that way we wouldn’t have league tables and most parents would be happier….Sats make the curriculum so rigid and put incredible pressures on pupils and teachers. It stops children getting a broad education in their last year of primary school.

Justine Roberts, the managing director of the website Mumsnet, said: “Parents are broadly supportive of a boycott. We very possibly trust that the teachers know more what is best for children than the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) does”.

Sats are generally not overly popular. They are supposed to test schools, but in effect kids know that they are being tested. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that in the weeks running up to the tests, school work becomes one-dimensional and only about the Sats. That is not necessarily the best thing for children.

Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of Netmums, said most parents thought Sats were “not a good thing. “We have seen too many children too stressed. For the whole year they do nothing but cram for the Sats. It is heart-breaking for parents to see their child pulled away from their childhood,” she said.

Trevor Cobbold

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