Vote on boycott of primary tests postponed

A vote on whether to ballot members of the National Union of Teachers for a boycott of primary school tests next year has been postponed after debate overran at the union’s conference.

More than a dozen speakers contributed to a heated discussion about primary assessment in Cardiff this morning, calling for an end to the current regime of tests for primary school pupils.

Although delegates voted for an internal indicative ballot of union members in the autumn to gauge support for a boycott, a more strongly-worded motion calling for an official ballot did not make it to a vote before today’s conference business came to an end at 1pm.

The vote has now been postponed until tomorrow, when the stronger motion is expected to pass, albeit with some amendments by the union’s executive.

We must bring down this whole stinking edifice

The NUT is the second union to put a boycott on the table this week, after the Association of Teachers and Lecturers voted to explore similar action at its conference on Wednesday.

If backed by members, a boycott would involve headteachers refusing to administer the tests and teachers withdrawing themselves from preparatory work like revision classes.

Both the NUT and ATL have headteacher members, but the unions are also likely to seek the support of leaders in other unions to increase the impact of any boycott.

During this morning’s debate, Jessica Edwards, a member of the NUT’s executive, told the conference that last year’s SATs were “the worst we’ve ever had”, describing them as “chaotic, stressful and unfair”.

She said SATs were the “head of the monster”, adding: “Let’s decapitate it, and get rid of all testing in primary now.”

Siobhan Collingwood, an NUT member from Lancaster Morecambe, warned that the current testing regime was “killing our children”, and said the union must work to “bring down this whole stinking edifice”.

Another delegate, Jennie Jones, described a recent conversation with the education secretary Justine Greening, her local MP in Wandsworth.

Jones said Greening was surprised to learn that in some instances, pupils were required to present rough work to teachers to be checked before it was officially submitted as evidence.

“Schools are faking it to make it,” warned Jones, who said she had told Greening: “Don’t you dare blame the teachers”.

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