By Patrick Yarker, Norwich and District NUT
How best to take forward the campaign to end over-testing in English state-schools? 'Research, alternatives, action!' was how the strategy was summed up at the second anti-SATs Conference on 12 June, when teachers, parents, governors and academics met to consider activity after the NUT's abortive boycott-call.
The recent Daugherty Report looks likely to ensure the scrapping of all SATs in Wales. Professor Daugherty has been particularly robust in his dismissal of KS3 SATs, calling them a waste of money.
His recommendations will enable assessment to focus on a student's preparedness for the next phase of their education, rather than merely looking back at what a student has supposedly learned across a 'Key Stage' in school.
Bethan Marshall of King's College, London, detailed elements of his report and reminded the conference of the unreliability of data generated by short-timed tests such as SATs and the 11 Plus.
Workshop-groups discussed ways to represent the arguments which expose SATs for the damaging, de-motivating and desperately dulling waste of time and money they are.
We heard from a headteacher threatened with dismissal by her LEA and attacked by her school's governing-body for taking a stand against the tests.
A parent spoke of the way his child's positive attitude to school had been undermined by the testing-regime.
Jon Berry, Anti-SATs Alliance convenor, spoke about the concern voiced to him by Save The Children. He said there was a need to develop links with the many organisations who work with young people; they were aware of the pressure the over-testing regime is putting on children.
Jay Rosner of the Princeton Review Foundation demonstrated how bias is written into the entire testing-system in the US by the private company which generates and selects the questions used. He also noted the weakness of US teaching-unions over the issue of testing.
NUT activists called for arguments and research against SATs to be coupled with a new boycott-campaign.
The issue must be on the agenda for the next NUT Conference. Teachers need to recover our sense of autonomy and self-confidence in the face of the Blairite 're-modelling' agenda which will try to reduce us further to the status of mere deliverers of pre-packaged 'learning'.
The alternatives to SATs need to be popularised and the debate re-kindled about what and who schools are for.
Ian Murch sent a message of support to the conference, and Martin Powell-Davis attended.
The anti-SATs Alliance hope to publish a second pamphlet developing ideas from the conference. The campaign-website will be re-vamped and new materials will be generated.
Activists should continue to raise the issues inside their schools and union-branches. England will soon be the only country inflicting full-blown SATs on students, and even in England the rich can buy their children out of SATs: students at private schools don't have to take them.
SATs continue to impoverish the education offered to our children. Even when judged on the government's own terms, they worsen rather than raise 'standards', widening the gap between lower- and higher-attaining students. In so doing they label many children failures at the age of seven, and make many others resentful and even cynical about what happens in school. Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Island of Jersey have turned their back on SATs. So must we.
Email anti-SATs material and contributions to Jon Berry