The boycott: how was it for you?

21st May 2010 at 01:00
Up and down the country there was mixed reaction to last week's anti- Sats industrial action. So The TES asked heads, teachers and a governor

Gary Chown Executive head, Children First federation of schools in Devon (Wilcombe, Sampford Peverell CoE and Hemyock primaries); NAHT member

We did not take part in the boycott. Our federation is very recently formed, the governing body was only finalised on May 4, so the timing wasn't good for us. We also took the opinion that we had already prepared children for the tests and they were ready to sit them.

It was a hard decision for us, because we empathise with the campaign. I left it up to individual teachers to decide what they wanted to do, but they were of the same opinion as me due to the formation of our federation.

One or two children did ask if we were taking part, but that was only because they were checking they could still do the tests.

Mike Kent, Head, Comber Grove Primary, Southwark; TES columnist

We boycotted the Sats, but from my own school's point of view the boycott hasn't affected anything at all, except creating a huge sigh of relief.

I haven't had a single complaint from parents; I even had two who said they were delighted.

I had massive support from the governing body and the local authority said it was my duty to make sure the children did the tests, but they didn't apply any more pressure than that.

I was disappointed by the turn-out in Southwark, where only half a dozen out of 70 schools did the boycott.

I would be hard-pressed to find a head who supports Sats so I would have hoped for a greater turn out.

I think some heads, especially the younger ones, can feel under a lot more pressure from Ofsted and the ~(local education authority).

If 95 per cent of schools had boycotted, the politicians would have been forced to sit down and come up with alternative. But as it is we'll be back to the norm, spending millions of pounds on ridiculous tests to compile the league tables.

Tony Callaghan, Local authority governor, Bignold Primary, Norwich

As a governor, I felt disenfranchised by the industrial action over Sats. Our head wanted to go ahead with the boycott, but the governors were split on whether he should. We had concerns about the parents' reaction and the potential for increased workload over the extra teacher assessment there would have to be.

But advice to governors has been to not get involved in the dispute, stay out of the argument. I felt powerless to intervene and the school ended up boycotting. Now it's clear that Sats and league tables are up the creek.

As a grandparent, I know that many parents use results to help them choose a school. The boycott has just muddied the waters; it has thrown the whole situation into chaos.

What I want to know now is: how long will this coalition between the NAHT and (teaching union the) NUT last?

Judith Kearney, Year 6 teacher, Summerhill Primary, Liverpool; retiring at the end of term

We didn't do any tests at all during Sats week. We worked with Creative Partnerships (learning programme) on a `philosopher's garden day', exploring the idea of space.

The children discussed all aspects of it, from personal space to space travel. Eleven-year-olds are fantastic at discussion if you just give them a chance to do it. We also did practical activities, exploring patterns and making biscuits. We had a really pleasant week.

Some of the children were saying they felt sorry for their friends in other schools that decided to go ahead with the tests.

Around 85 per cent of schools in Sefton, our local authority, boycotted the Sats, so there is no way they could put the league tables together.

I feel that the change of Government might lead to some sort of change on Sats, and the boycott will speak to them and make them sit down and look at it. I wouldn't be surprised if they got rid of them just as I am retiring.

But I did think when we started the boycott on Monday and the politicians were putting together a coalition whether they would really be thinking about Sats.

Huw Thomas, Head, Emmaus Catholic and CoE Primary, Sheffield

There was some confusion because some broadcasters made it sound as if the boycott was just going to happen. I did have one parent coming in to ask me "what was this about the tests not happening?"

I don't think many parents were aware the boycott was happening, though.

I did talk to my chair of governors at some length and to the curriculum governors because I wanted them to know why we were not taking action.

I wanted them to be absolutely clear that we were going to go ahead, but this was absolutely not a vote of confidence in the tests themselves.

I wanted to make it clear to them I was 100 per cent in sympathy with the reason for the action but I did not think it was appropriate action to fulfil that goal.

Stuart Pywell, Head, St Stephen's Junior, Canterbury

Pupils did take the tests. It was a very difficult decision, and one we discussed with parents, governors and teachers.

Our view was that children had studied for the Sats, and it wouldn't have been fair not to give them that opportunity.

We also had to take a decision as to whether to send the tests off to be validated. We chose to - we are an outstanding school and we were concerned about Ofsted's view of unvalidated data.

There is no doubt that Sats do skew the curriculum; there needs to be more balance. Hopefully the new Government will reflect on the boycott, and the professionalism teachers have shown, and give us more autonomy.

Jeremy Doyle, Head, Redhills Primary, Exeter

We did the Sats as usual and played it by the book. (I believe) there was a very low rate of participation in the boycott across the county.

In other parts of the country, especially the north, lots of schools took part. This was down to the fact, if I compare working in Devon to when I worked in Hounslow, that this is a much less politicised environment in which to live and work.

It's a cultural issue. Issues which are perceived to be burning in London are not always perceived to be burning here.

More generally, there is a less frenetic pace of life. People don't work to the letter of their contracts and complain about the odd extra meeting; they just do it.

People here weren't as keen to make an overtly political point, they are more immediately concerned with children rather than the political issue.

There was no pressure from the local authority over this. They sent an email asking whether we were taking part in the Sats on Tuesday last week, when Sats were already underway. It didn't seem like they needed the information urgently.

  • Interviews by Irena Barker, Kerra Maddern and Helen Ward
    • TES forums


      We are happily boycotting and (like a number of schools) doing old Sats in a much more relaxed and stress-free atmosphere. We will use the results to inform our TA (teacher assessment), which we will report to (the Department for Education) as usual. Parents and secondary schools will get TA and test results as usual. No one loses out.

      Professor Dumbledore

      We are boycotting. As a result, I have been told to get my (Assessing Pupils' Progress), target sheets, tracker data etc bang up-to-date in case we are monitored. Brilliant. Yes, I know they ought to be anyway, but the added pressure does not help.

      Soapbox girl

      (My school was) going to boycott the Sats and do a previous year's paper in order to obtain levels. We decided that it was not fair that the Year 6 teachers would then have to mark all the papers, when normally they would be sent away. At the last minute, the head decided to go ahead with Sats as normal. Sats are a good end-of-year assessment tool, it's the league tables that everyone objects to.

      Giggle fairy

      We (are) sitting them - head's decision even though she's NAHT. I'm relieved as I feel it would be unfair to cancel at this late stage. I understand that there is this legal issue about the time between the ballot and the boycott, but given the circumstances, I'd like to see another route being taken.

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