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Shephard's U-turn on tests condemned

Gillian Shephard this week stood accused of breaking a promise not to publish league tables of 11-year-olds' test results and was warned about the consequences of her policy U-turn, writes Clare Dean.

Teachers were outraged by the Education and Employment Secretary's plans to publish school by school results of this summer's tests in January 1997.

Mrs Shephard will face a hostile National Union of Teachers when she addresses its Easter conference. The union remains opposed to league tables and members of the NUT-dominated anti-tests campaign warned of a possible boycott.

Alex Kenny, a member of the campaign, said: "Gillian Shephard promised that league tables wouldn't be produced and that was one of the reasons given for calling off the original boycott.

"She has clearly gone back on that promise and that is going to upset an awful lot of teachers who voted to do the tests in good faith."

Only last month Mrs Shephard promised that primary scores would not be published until the tests had "bedded down".

English teachers, who led the successful boycott of national curriculum tests two years ago, questioned the tests' validity but ruled out immediate further action.

Anne Barnes, general secretary of the National Association of the Teachers of English, said: "We are nervous about these tests being used for tables. They are still very young and it is early to be treating them as reliable for league tables."

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