'Government needs to listen on Sats'

NEU teaching union reveals 'ringing endorsement' to end high-stakes testing following 'largest poll of primary school practitioners ever undertaken'

Sats ban

More than 50,000 primary school teachers and support staff have called for an end to Sats – as the results of the tests taken by 600,000 Year 6 pupils are released to schools today.

Almost all of the NEU teaching union members who voted in its indicative ballot – held over a month between June and July – said they "would support its campaign against Sats". 

Kevin Courtney, joint-general secretary of the NEU, said: “Government now needs to listen, and to accept the need to change a culture in which too many classrooms are dominated by teaching to the test, at the expense of the learning and wellbeing of our children.

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“The indicative ballot of primary school members shows there is resounding support for a change to primary assessment. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party all have major concerns about our Sats-dominated system and have pledged to change it."

But the NEU has declined to publish results to the question of whether members support a boycott of Sats before this Saturday when the national executive will consider the results.

The figures, which it has released today, show that a total of 141,107 ballot papers were issued, of which 54,591 were returned. Of those, 97 per cent said they would support a campaign against Sats and high-stakes testing in primary schools. 

The turnout for the indicative ballot was 39 per cent of members. But if that was the same in a formal ballot, it would not be enough to trigger industrial action under union laws, which require 50 per cent of all members to vote, and 40 per cent of all members to vote yes.   

School standards minister Nick Gibb said: "The NEU’s indicative ballot does not even represent half their members, let alone the whole teaching profession.

“These tests have been part of school life since the 1990s and have been pivotal in raising standards in our primary schools.

"They help to ensure children leave primary school with a secure grasp of the fundamentals of reading, writing and maths, which lay the foundations for success at secondary school and beyond, and allow teachers to track pupils’ progress as they go through the school system, making sure pupils stay on course to reach their full potential.

“Abolishing these tests would be a terrible, retrograde step. It would enormously damage our education system, and undo decades of improvement in children’s reading and maths.”

Lib Dem education spokesperson Layla Moran MP, who said teachers were facing an “existential threat” when she spoke to the NEU annual conference in the spring, said the ballot showed “teachers have had enough of Sats.”

She said: “They want to deliver a high-quality education, rather than be put under the unnecessary pressure of a high-stakes testing regime that offers no benefit for their class.

“The pressure on headteachers and teachers to perform well cascades down the school to pupils. Teachers put on revision classes, booster sessions and past papers, all for something that Conservative ministers openly admit is not to assess children, but to test schools.

“It is time to lower the stakes of testing. Liberal Democrats would abolish key stage 2 Sats and reform league tables so that teachers can get on with the job they desperately want to do: supporting the learning and wellbeing of their pupils.”


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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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