Horns of a legal dilemma

2nd August 1996 at 01:00
According to the National Association of Head Teachers (TES, July 19) more than a thousand governing bodies plan to boycott primary league tables by refusing to return their schools' national curriculum test results for 11-year-olds. Gillian Shephard's response is to warn governors who take part in the boycott that they are breaking the law.

Along with many other governors, I am concerned about the sense of, and the reason for, publishing this year's results having understood that Mrs Shephard initially thought they should not be published because the tests were not "fully bedded down". Surely, if this is the case, the validity of the results, and therefore the league tables, are in doubt?

But the dilemma for governors is: do we break the law? And if we do, what message are we giving to the children of our schools? Is it OK to break the rules when you don't like them?

Should headteachers and associations such as the NAHT encourage governors to break the law? And what's the Secretary of State going to do when governors do break the law?

On this last point, the Secretary of State has the power to make an order declaring the governors to be in default of their duty and to direct them to put the matter right. Section 99 of the Education Act 1944 provides the Secretary of State with this power. So will the Secretary of State carry out her responsibility to uphold the law and make sure others do likewise?

MICHAEL JOHNSON 41 Rushmoor Road, Holme Wood Bradford, West Yorkshire

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