This year’s National Union of Teachers conference, held over the Easter weekend, voted unanimously to boycott SATs in the next academic year if the government fails to recognise the damage the tests are doing to our primary pupils. Conference called for the tests to be scrapped.
The tests have little educational importance — they have been exposed as a form of government control. Published league tables are used as sticks to beat teachers with, and students are left with a barren curriculum that focuses heavily on numeracy and literacy rather than a wide spectrum of topics. Students are left disengaged with education, young people are made unnecessarily stressed. Although staff are able to see the impact testing has on pupils, it has taken many years of campaigning for the NUT to reach this point.
There seem to be few arguments the government can use to support Key Stage Two SATs, since they unceremoniously scrapped the tests for 14 year olds in October.
It is widely hoped that the Head Teachers’ union, NAHT, will also pass a motion at their conference in May in support of the boycott of SATs in 2009-10.
An underlying worry is what Ed Balls may replace SATs with. Assessment is needed in the classroom; but the NUT needs to ensure that what replaces SATs is pupil-centred. Teachers should be trusted to create assessments that are purposeful and enhance the education of all pupils. Data created from assessments should never be used within league tables, and should only be used to inform the teacher, the pupil and parents of the progress the child is making.
The NUT should not accept any assessment system that allows the government to compare schools, as this is undoubtedly being used as a tool for increasing the privatisation of education.
It also paramount that the union uses every opportunity to outline the damage these tests are doing in order to get the full support of parents — this is a fight that the government cannot be allowed to win.
To make the action a reality activists must translate the lessons of the pay action into this new campaign. That means local associations and divisions throwing themselves into an organising drive of publicity, members and school meetings.
But more than that, we need to look to the bubbling discontent in society and harness it in this initiative: that means taking bold steps where necessary to secure a better, more inclusive and imaginative education system for all young people.