AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS

PRESS RELEASE 377

AUSTRALAIN TEACHERS NOT THE ONLY ONES TO

BOYCOTT LEAGUE TABLE TESTS

18 April 2010

Australian teachers are not the only ones to question the use and abuse of tests applied to school children across the nation. They are merely learning from what is already happening in the UK where similar tests have been used to name, shame and punish schools and head teachers. Given the timing of the UK vote, however, it might be argued that the UK is now following Australia.

In the UK the two biggest teaching unions NUT and NAHT have voted to take action against tests due to be sat by 600,000 children on May 10. See guardian.co.uk, Friday 16 April. NAHT said that a national ballot of teachers has not been called for a quarter of a century.

The two biggest UK teacher unions the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) balloted headteachers and their deputies over whether to "frustrate the administration" of the maths and English tests, formerly known as Sats. The two unions combined represent headteachers from about 80% of England's 17,000 primary schools.

The tests are due to be sat by 600,000 children in their last year of primary school on May 10 the first day that a new government would begin office.

The teachers were asked: "In order to protect your terms and conditions of employment, are you prepared to take industrial action short of strike action to frustrate the administration of national curriculum tests in English and Mathematics?"

Teachers want ministers to abolish the tests because they argue they are used to compile meaningless school league tables. They say the tables unfairly stigmatise schools with the most challenging pupils, and turn children's last year of primary school into a repetitive drill for the tests. They want to see Sats replaced by teacher assessment.

The threat has drawn a different response to that in Australia. Julia Gillard has made threats, but Vernon Coaker, until last week the schools minister, has urged teachers not to boycott the tests and to "keep talking to the government about the future of testing" instead. Gordon Brown has made a personal appeal to teachers not to boycott the tests.

Christine Blower, the 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 (age 10 and 11), which they have already done for science in year 6 and for all subjects in year 9 (age 13 and 14). A sampling system would give a national picture of pupil achievement without identifying individual schools or children."

Mick Brookes, the general secretary of the NAHT, said: "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 23m spent on this year's administrative arrangements. This system is a profligate waste of taxpayers' money."

Labour and the Conservatives say they want to keep Sats, but the Tories are considering moving the tests to the first year of secondary school. The Lib Dems have pledged to scale back Sats and use teacher assessment alongside them.

Parent groups defended the boycott and said they trusted teachers to know more about education than the government. Margaret Morrissey, of pressure group Parents Outloud, said she hoped politicians will now listen to the majority voice of parents and teachers.

At the NUT's annual conference earlier this month, teachers from east London said colleagues were leaving the profession because the Sats had turned them into "nothing more than box tickers and exam crammers".

 

 

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