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.”


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  1. Sue Parkes

    I think to cancel tests now when children have spent all year preparing would be wrong. Believe that we should aim to boycott SPAG from next year based on in appropriateness of content. Think we should aim to have this year’s tests treated as pilots. Data not used against schools in any way shape or form and used as the basis for a dialogue between government and teachers. That’s in the ideal world! Or. We withhold the data from central government and matk them ourselves getting together to collate data. Then once more we use that data as the basis for …

  2. B. Lewis

    Lots of rhetoric but watered down action.
    Find a way to stop the tests this year because this Year 6 will carry with them a potentially damaging Number for the rest of their lives.

  3. I can’t believe how conservative the NUT are being- teachers are literally begging for a boycott of this years SATS. It is this cohort who will be most damaged as children will not have time to prepare. If the NUT don’t start listening to the membership someone will set up one that does….we will fight strike and boycott to get the best deal for our children but we want to do it now!!