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Heads unable to cover for boycott

Teachers are likely to be balloted on primary national tests by Christmas, reports Warwick Mansell

Headteachers are unlikely to stand in the way of a boycott of national curriculum tests for seven and 11-year-olds by Britain's biggest teachers'


David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers , said few heads would be able to run the tests themselves should the boycott go ahead in the new year.

Nor did many have the support staff to administer the tests, and the separate tasks that were associated with them. Mr Hart said: "If the ballot goes ahead, I'm not sure at all that NAHT members will want to run the tests themselves."

His comments, which suggest many schools will not run the tests next year, came as the National Union of Teachers finalised its position on a boycott ballot.

As The TES went to press, the NUT's national executive was being recommended to ballot its members before Christmas on a boycott of the 2004 primary tests in England. But union officials were advising the executive to delay a ballot on the key stage 3 tests until a fresh survey of members could gauge the impact of last week's government announcement of new league tables for 14-year-olds.

The union feels that move has strengthened opposition to the secondary tests.

Last month, a survey of 31,000 of the NUT's 260,000 members found three-quarters supported a ballot to boycott key stage 1 tests and two-thirds backed action against key stage 2 testing.

The union has not yet decided exactly which aspects of the tests would be boycotted. The action could encompass practice tests.

The union's officers are confident that any boycott would stand up in court, having taken legal advice this week.

Mr Hart, while arguing that few of his members would stand in the way of the boycott, said the NUT could be making a "tactical blunder" by taking action before the results of a government pilot to change the tests were known.

Aquarter of primary schools will pilot changes to the key stage 1 tests, announced in May to counter growing anger about pressure on seven-year-olds. The changes will place more emphasis on teacher assessment, with the tests being used to inform teachers' judgments of their pupils' progress.

Mr Hart said: "The Government could say to the NUT: 'you are boycotting key stage 1 and you have not even bothered to await the outcome of the pilot'.

To jump straight in with a boycott now could be tactically naive."

The NAHT is expected to decide at an executive meeting next month whether to proceed with a boycott of its own of the key stage 1 tests next year, though Mr Hart said action next year was unlikely. Members would be consulted on the issue in January.

Meanwhile, the NUT is furious that David Miliband, the school standards minister, has not replied to a letter sent more than a month ago, requesting a meeting on the tests.

Opinion 27

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