Boycott ballot possible if no Sats rethink

29th April 2011 at 01:00
Heads' union vows to consult members if ministers refuse to budge on assessment

Thousands of primary heads should be balloted over a further boycott of key stage 2 Sats tests if the Government does not revamp the assessment system as early as next year, school leaders will be told this weekend.

A motion at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) annual conference will call for "the right to consult membership on further action" if ministers fail to put teacher assessment at the core of school accountability by 2012.

Proposer Steve Iredale, vice-chair of the NAHT's assessment reform campaign, told The TES that although pension reform now topped the political agenda, the association was not going to "walk away from" fighting for "fairer" assessment.

It is two years since the NAHT conference voted to push ahead with a joint boycott of Sats with the NUT; about a quarter of primary schools took part in May 2010.

Education secretary Michael Gove held off a proposed boycott of this year's Sats after agreeing to set up an independent review of assessment and testing chaired by cross-bench peer Lord Bew.

Setting up the review panel, Mr Gove acknowledged that there were issues about schools "teaching to the test", but gave no suggestion that he was planning to scrap national testing completely.

Mr Iredale said: "Headteachers didn't run the risk of boycotting Sats last year in order to come out with nothing. Some had tremendous grief out of it. The members are watching with great interest."

He said that the association was "cautiously optimistic" about Lord Bew's review and the Government's potential response and insisted the NAHT would take a "firm but reasonable approach" to negotiations.

He said the association would be "in the Government's face" over the issue as soon as Lord Bew's final report is published in June.

Mr Iredale added: "We have trusted Michael Gove, put our faith in the review and we are expecting it to demonstrate that our good faith pays off. I don't think the Government wants any conflict with an association as powerful as ourselves."

The conference comes just days before this year's Sats week is about to begin on 9 May. Few will be willing to take "wildcat" action on the issue, however strongly they feel.

An interim report from the Bew review concluded that the evidence it had received indicated change was to the system was needed.

A call for evidence elicited 4,000 responses and 50 people spoke in formal evidence sessions. Half of respondents wanted league tables removed and 47 per cent felt the current system encouraged schools to "teach to the test" and narrowed the curriculum.

Upper pay spine - `Unfit for purpose'

There are thousands of teachers on the upper pay spine who do not deserve to be there, a headteacher will claim at the NAHT conference.

Essex primary head Chris Beazeley will also argue that the Government must introduce a clear system that allows managers to put teachers back on to the main scale if they do not continue to meet the standards of a post- threshold teacher.

Seconding a motion which describes the upper pay spine as "not fit for purpose", he said the current system was proving bad value for schools.

Speaking before his speech in Brighton this weekend, he told The TES : "Some teachers could have met the standards when they went through some time ago, but they are not meeting them any more. We need a stick as well as a carrot."

Original print headline: Boycott ballot on the cards if no rethink on KS2 Sats

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