[ProgressiveEd] For your attention

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Thu, 1 May 2003 14:46:03 +0000 (UTC)

Linda spotted this on the Guardian Unlimited site and thought you should see it.
To see this story with its related links on the Guardian Unlimited site, go to http://www.guardian.co.uk
Tests in doubt after NUT vote
Action by teachers could scupper exams for 2m pupils
Will Woodward, education editor
Sunday April 20 2003
The Observer
Next year's tests for seven, 11 and 14-year-olds were in serious doubt last night after the country's largest teaching union voted to ballot for a boycott. 
The action by the National Union of Teachers, which is likely to be overwhelmingly backed by members, would be enough to scupper the tests for the majority of the 2 million pupils who take the tests in England and Wales.   
Delegates wearing T-shirts saying "No Useless Tests" branded them variously as "child abuse", "tyranny" and "disgusting" and stood and cheered after the boycott vote was passed unanimously.  
The move escalates the war of words between the union and the government but will reinforce the mounting pressure on ministers over a testing regime which critics say damns children as academic failures from early in their school careers.  
The move would spare students in England and Wales from tests in English, maths and science at key stage two, aged 11, and key stage three, aged 14. Wales has scrapped the key stage one tests at seven but pupils in England still take them in English and maths. It would also sabotage next   year's primary league tables in England.  
Unlike last year, when a similar motion was passed, the union's leadership accepted yesterday that the vote by the NUT conference in Harrogate left them little wriggle room to avoid a ballot, barring surprise concessions by the education secretary, Charles Clarke.  
Mr McAvoy predicted there would be a ballot in late winter term or early next spring. He predicted that the tests would then be scrapped in most schools at seven and 11 but accepted the boycott would be less comprehensive at 14.  
"The Sats regime requires teachers to teach in a particular way, which teachers says doesn't allow them to teach effectively," said the union's general secretary, Doug McAvoy.  
But the risk of a legal chal lenge from employers is the immediate reason why two other classroom unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, will probably hold back from a ballot. The NASUWT executive is expected to try to face down calls from delegates at its conference in Bournemouth.  
"Whilst we understand the reaction of many teachers to continuation of Sats there is still a major problem with any boycott in that it could run foul of employment legislation. If we went to undertake such a boycott and then found it was rendered illegal that would be very demoralising for teachers," the NASUWT's general secretary, Eamonn O'Kane, said last night.   
The NUT and NASUWT jointly boycotted the tests in 1993, the year after they were introduced across the board. The NASUWT survived a legal challenge then but pulled out of the boycott in 1994, forcing the NUT to go it alone. The NUT succumbed at the end of 1994 after some concessions from the then Conservative government.  
The boycott would also sabotage the government's 2004 targets for the Sats results, although most of them are likely to be missed in any case. Yesterday's motion commits the union to a national campaign to win support from parents.  
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "I have grave doubts about attacking the government on key stage two and three. I don't   think that would have the generality of support that boycotting key stage one would have. That is handing the government an extremely powerful propaganda weapon and I think that is doomed from the start."  
A spokesman for the education department said: "We are not going back to the days when we had no regular information about how pupils were doing in school."  
Conference also passed unanimously a motion committing the union to ballot for industrial action in local areas where teachers are being made redundant because of budget cuts.    
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited