Union action against primary tests: what it means for schools

Union action against primary tests: what it means for schools

The National Union of Teachers has today passed a motion about primary testing, which will inform its campaigning on the issue over the next year and beyond. Here’s the three things it will mean for schools…

 

This year’s national assessments (SATs)

The NUT is calling on education secretary Nicky Morgan to cancel the tests due to take place this summer for both key stage 1 and key stage 2 pupils.

This is in response to concerns about the difficulty levels and age-appropriateness of the tests, which have been widely criticised by teachers and campaigners.

Christine Blower

Christine Blower

The government is unlikely to agree to cancel the new tests which are a key part of its curriculum and assessment reform programme.

General secretary Christine Blower said: “The NUT is calling on the secretary of state to cancel the 2016 SATs tests.

“Teachers are angry and dismayed at the primary tests, which they believe are age inappropriate. Teachers are wasting precious time on preparing children for tests at the expense of offering a vibrant engaging education for their pupils.”

 

Baseline assessments

Included in the NUT’s motion is a call for schools to boycott the baseline tests due to take place in primary schools this autumn. Schools can do this by refusing to “opt in” to the tests, which are not statutory, but are required if a primary wishes to be measure on the progress of its pupils rather than overall attainment.

However, this isn’t something the NUT’s members, who are mostly classroom teachers and middle leaders, have a say on, as the decision on whether or not a school takes part in the tests usually lies with the headteacher.

The NUT has said around 2,000 heads decided not to opt into the tests last year, and the union expects “that number or more” to do so again this autumn.

Ms Blower said: “The baseline assessment is optional and it is not therefore necessary to ballot to boycott. Over 2,000 schools didn’t do it last autumn. We congratulate those schools and hope and expect to see many more this autumn.”

 

A boycott of all tests next year

The motion, as amended by the union’s executive, includes a clause to consider a ballot for the boycott of baseline, key stage 1 and key stage 2 tests “at the most appropriate time”. The leadership has said this could happen as soon as next year.

The original motion specifically called on the executive to explore the need for a boycott in 2017, but was watered-down by the executive, which had its amendment passed by conference.

Ms Blower said: “The union will consider a ballot for the boycott of the summer 2017 tests.

“Far from improving outcomes for 11-year-olds, the endless high-stakes testing of such young children could easily switch children off from learning, increase their anxiety levels, and harm their self-confidence – a vital ingredient for successful learning.”