The National Education Union’s indicative ballot of its primary school members to boycott high stakes summative testing opened on 4 June and closes on 2 July. Thus far the turnout seems to be good, if uneven.
Where districts are organising school meetings and phone-banking their members, the results are strong. In those areas, the process of building the ballot is bringing in new members and new reps and building the sinews of organisation that have been missing in primary schools for many years. With continued effort, many districts will pass the 50% turnout threshold.
The ballot poses two questions. The first is about whether the member supports the campaign to replace high stakes testing, and the response is that is expected to be very highly in favour. The second is about whether the member would be willing to boycott the tests. The yes vote for that might be lower.
We need to win the argument with members that if they think the system is wrong, and the vast majority do, then we have to do something effective to get rid of it. That means boycott. Some hesitation over the boycott proposal is to be expected. It is a clear and sustained piece of action which will require some school groups to face down their management.
Members can see that it really is a possibility and are thus weighing it up soberly. On top of that a number of allegedly “left” districts led by the Socialist Teachers’ Alliance and the Socialist Workers Party have educated their activist base over a number of years that it wasn’t possible to get this boycott. This may also affect the yes vote to the second question in these areas.
The ballot closes on 2 July. At that point activists will need to consider if we can call for a formal national ballot to boycott, or whether we will need to disaggregate the formal ballot to areas where we are strongest. In this calculation, we should remember that in the lead-up to the formal ballot in December we will have several months to persuade more members to vote, and to persuade members who maybe unsure of a boycott that it is the only method we have to rid us of these toxic tests.
In the meantime, in the run up to 2 July we must fight for every vote in every school we can reach. Every NEU member in primary schools must vote Yes to stop toxic testing.