Heads can’t condone SATs boycott, but parent fines unlikely

Plans by parents to keep pupils away from primary schools on Tuesday in protest against the government’s testing regime can’t be condoned by headteachers, but are unlikely to lead to fines for parents, school leaders have said.

Members of the National Association of Headteachers executive told journalists at the launch of the union’s annual conference in Birmingham this afternoon that it wouldn’t be “fair” for leaders to authorise absences on the grounds of protest, but that breaches would not necessarily lead to action against parents.

The maximum penalty if parents or carers are prosecuted for repeated absences is a £2,500 and jail time, and the union has previously said it is up to headteachers whether absences as a result of the Let Kids Be Kids campaign action on Tuesday should be reported as authorised or unauthorised.

“As a head you look at a child’s overall attendance over the year, over a longer period of time,” said Tony Draper, head at Water Hall Primary school in Milton Keynes and the union’s current president.

“It is a very difficult one because we can’t condone an absence just because a parent doesn’t like what is going on in the class that day. That wouldn’t be fair. That wouldn’t be right and proper.”

But Amanda Hulme, a union executive who leads Claypool Primary School in Horwich, insisted one unauthorised absence on a pupil’s record would not lead to a fine, and said a breach on Tuesday would not necessarily be the tipping point for a child who had a string of absences on their file.

“It’s down to each individual headteacher,” she said.

Kim Johnson, the Bradfields Academy principal who will be sworn in as the union’s new president this afternoon, said the government needed to listen to parents and teachers when they said the current assessment system “isn’t working”.

“There’s a statement being made by parents, but we’re making a big statement as an association about our big concerns about assessment,” he said.

“The profession is saying assessment is broken, it’s not working, and parents are saying it’s badly wrong for our children, and the government needs to start sitting up and take notice.”

The boycott by parents of pupils in key stages 1 and 2 is in response to what is widely seen as excessive testing of children at primary level, and follows complaints that new tests for young children are too difficult.


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