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Head teachers vote to boycott tests for 11-year-olds

5 May 2009 2,706 views No Comment

Alexandra Frean, Education Editor Sunday Times
Primary pupils aged 11 will not be prepared for next year’s national curriculum tests for the first time in 15 years, head teachers said.
Instead of spending up to ten hours a week in the spring term practising for Key Stage 2, children in Year 6 will be able to concentrate on learning and on enjoying what should be the most exciting year in primary school, Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said.
Speaking after a vote by his union to support a boycott of Key Stage 2 tests in 2010, Mr Brookes said the action, if supported by members in a ballot, would put an end to the “tyranny of testing” for the first time since they were introduced 15 years ago. If the boycott is approved, the action could end national curriculum testing, known as SATs, in England. Key Stage 3 tests for 14-year-olds were abolished last year and Key Stage 1 tests for seven-year-olds have been downgraded. A boycott is likely to present Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, with one of his biggest challenges. He may be required to go to court to force head teachers to deliver the tests next year. While the 500,000-strong teaching workforce is largely opposed to the tests, opinion among parents is divided, with some believing that the tests are stressful and a waste of time and others believing they provide a vital independent progress check on children’s academic performance.
By removing the tests, children would not have their education “disrupted” by repeated drilling. Teachers would be able to concentrate on teaching and parents would be able to rely on teacher assessment of progress. “Inspectors and other agents of accountability will have to consider the work that is actually going on in schools, rather than a set of spurious results,” Mr Brookes said at the union’s annual conference in Brighton. Next year’s proposed boycott will not affect the 600,000 11-year-olds due to sit Key Stage 2 tests next week, on May 11. Margaret Morrissey, of Parents Outloud, the campaign group, and a supporter of the boycott, suggested that parents might consider withdrawing their children from school during the week of the tests.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures. 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,” she said.
Mr Brookes said that parents were being “misled” by claims from Mr Balls that their child’s education would be “disrupted” if a boycott by the NAHT and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) goes ahead. To reassure parents, the NAHT is to send a letter to those with children in Year 5, who would be taking their national curriculum tests next year. “What is disrupting and demeaning to pupils is the intrusion into high-quality education in Key Stage 2 where good teachers are pressurised into teaching for the test for up to ten hours a week,” he said. “What is disrupting to parents is having their child miserable in the very year that they should be revelling in the zenith of their primary years.” Mr Brookes said that the NAHT, which represents 85 per cent of primary school head teachers, intends to continue working for a solution to avoid industrial action.
Have your say

In the US, “teaching to the test” has become a year round norm. Regular teaching and learning has become catch as catch can because educators are too busy placating politicians by jumping through hoops and getting ready for every test that comes along. Hurray for you, UK teachers! Boycott away!
Mary, Jackson, USA

Someone needs to tell Ed Balls to listen and stop dreaming up ever worsening scenarios. We do have some excellent teachers. The same cannot be said for politicians.
Charles Bockett-Pugh, Sandhurst,

As a year 6 teacher I am able to report with great accuracy the attainment levels of every child in my class. This is already in place through APP. What I can’t predict is a one-off performance in an arbitrary test that may or not be objectively marked. The SATs are a bad joke and need boycotting.
Simon Chubb, Newcastle-under-Lyme, UK

Children in England should be lucky to have understanding teachers. In NSW, Australia children aged 9 and 11 are not only tested but slightly underperforming children are dumped into subprime classes and schools. That force children to run for private coaching in weekends and lose their childhood.
Prem, Sydney, Australia

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