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Teachers vote to consider boycott of primary tests

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Teachers have voted to consider balloting for a boycott of next year's primary national tests.

Delegates at the National Union of Teachers' (NUT) conference in Brighton also voted in favour of a campaign to cancel next term’s SATs following a year of “chaotic” assessment change.

Teachers carried an emergency motion this morning calling for a potential ballot for a boycott of new baseline tests for four and five-year-olds, and KS1 and KS2 tests “at the most appropriate time”. Union leadership later said that this could mean a boycott in 2017.

The motion condemned the “wholly unacceptable” way in which the Government has managed assessment change during the 2016 spring term.

It claimed that the recent ‘clarifications’ – issued by the Department for Education – leave fundamental issues “confused and unresolved”.

The motion states: "The 2016 results of the KS1 and KS2 assessment cannot be taken as fair, accurate, or reliable representation of the attainment of pupils and of the work of schools."

Later at the conference, delegates could decide to ballot members for a boycott of all statutory tests in primary schools, and of baseline assessments, by the end of summer term.

Teacher Sara Tomlinson, from Lambeth, told the conference: "The worst thing you can do to them at four is sit them down at a table and make them read and write.

"The most important skill children can learn in order to be good academically later on, is resilience, is getting on with your friends, is learning how to play a game, learning how to take turns. Those are the things four-year-olds should be doing. Not sitting down to take a test."

Jennie Jones, from Wandsworth, told delegates that she now has 9 assessment folders and has timed her students reading with a stopwatch.

The Year two primary school teacher said: “I am being forced to do things I swore I would never do. I am not teaching to the test, but I am teaching to the year two standards which is just as bad.”

 A recent survey by the NUT, of more than 5,200 primary teachers in England, found that almost nine in ten primary teachers believe Nicky Morgan should cancel national tests due to be taken next term.

The NUT's priority motion passed this morning says it will seek support from unions for "a campaign to cancel arrangements for 2016 primary assessment".

Amanda Martin, from the union's executive, told delegates that the current education system seeks “to brand children like cattle and turn them off learning for life”. “We need to unravel this chaotic, damaging curriculum and ensure that on every doorstep education is raised as an issue and on every set of lips ‘cancel the tests’ is said,” she said.

Following the vote, Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “Teachers are angry and dismayed at the primary tests, which they believe are age inappropriate. Teachers are wasting precious time on preparing children for tests at the expense of offering a vibrant engaging education for their pupils.”

She added: “Far from improving outcomes for 11 year olds, the endless high-stakes testing of such young children could easily switch children off from learning, increase their anxiety levels, and harm their self-confidence – a vital ingredient for successful learning.”​

A spokesman for the Department for Education said parents "rightly expect" the government "to ensure that their children are leaving primary school having mastered literacy and numeracy" and this justified the tests at the end of key stage 2.

"The recent OECD skills survey showed that too many of our young adults failed to master these skills when they were in school. We’re determined not to let that happen to another generation of young people", he added.



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