ATL votes to explore boycott of primary tests

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has voted to explore a boycott of all primary assessment, despite the government’s recent concessions on key stage 1 SATs.

Delegates at the union’s conference in Liverpool have today backed a motion calling on the ATL’s executive to “explore a possible boycott of all tests at primary level”, including talks with the National Union of Teachers and National Association of Head Teachers to get others on board.

The motion, backed by 96 per cent of delegates, comes despite a recent move by the government to address concerns about primary tests, which were fraught with problems last year following the introduction of a new assessment regime.

Education is in a pit dug by the twin evils of testing and league tables

Ministers are proposing to scrap key stage 1 SATs and replace them with a new baseline test for reception children, but union activists remain unconvinced by the proporals and a lack of action over tests for older pupils.

Jean Roberts, a member of ATL, said although teachers needed to “make our voice heard” in the government’s consultation and say no to “already failed baseline assessment being brought back“, she has concerns about the lack of a mention of key stage 2 SATs.

“Those will stay in place with the curriculum narrowed for so many pupils as schools work to ensure they reach an ever-rising bar, which means they are not deemed below the floor and labelled as failing,” she said, adding that the time had come to “stop moaning about the test” and “put the nail in the coffin of testing”.

“One of our primary schools was asking teachers to go in on Saturdays and take booster classes for those who will struggle to make the magic level. Just the sort of children who should be having a break from such studies.”

Roberts said a successful boycott, if agreed, needed “teachers, headteachers and parents supporting it”.

Michael Catty, another member, said education in England was “in a pit that will get deeper and deeper”, being “dug by the twin evils of testing and league tables”.

“Combine those two together and education just doesn’t count. We can’t do anything about league tables, but we can do something about testing.

“Nobody wants it. The children don’t want it, the parents don’t want it, the teachers don’t want it. Let’s get rid of it. We can do it.”

Mary Bousted, the ATL’s general secretary, told journalists it was “hardly surprising” that teachers have “very little trust in the government’s ability to reform assessment adequately”.

“I think Justine Greening has taken this issue seriously and has conducted a review of primary assessment, and that contains some good proposals – taking away testing at seven and looking at new ways of marking – and that is a serious attempt at engagement with the profession.

“The problem is, and the suspicion among our members is that it doesn’t go far enough. We’re not going to agree to a quid-pro-quo that you take away the key stage 1 SATs and you re-introduce baseline testing.”

Any boycott of tests, which would amount to a form of industrial action, would require a ballot of members of both the ATL and NUT once they have amalgamated to form the National Education Union in September.

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  1. Um, they do have a value, a rather alarming one. SATs Reading Paper and Mathematics (3 non-calc papers) Scaled Scores results are averaged, inputed into a computer, and used to predict GSCE flight paths levels from 1-9 at age 16 years. Do well at age 10/11 years and expect unrelenting pressure on you child by teachers to perform to top level as they are accountable for your “performance” (not taking into account changes in parental circumstances, puberty, illness, or any other factor. Do badly at 10/11 years and expect to be labelled as average, not be pushed to your maximum capability as you mature educationally with age, and being excluded from higher level exams.