Why the unions are making a stand over Sats

10th April 2009 at 01:00

Gerard Kelly's editorial ("Bruising tactics make winning campaign a loser", April 3) was very curious - and not just because his Second World War analogy was, to coin a phrase, over the top.

His question, "who governs here?" - with respect to the NAHT and NUT unions' joint motion on national curriculum testing - is one that every hostile politician and media outlet has asked since unions were founded. It betrays an ignorance of industrial relations.

Mr Kelly's editorial also seems to imply that, because we face an economic crisis, deep concerns about education and discussion on action to resolve them should be abandoned. And this from the editor of a paper on education!

We have to ask, when Mr Kelly claims "the Government is exploring alternatives after last year's marking debacle", whether he has any new information on the activities of Ed Balls' expert group? Despite the Schools Secretary's statement that, "the assessment system is not set in stone", there does not appear to be any movement at all. Only recently, the NAHT saw a letter from schools minister Jim Knight to an MP affirming that "key stage 2 Sats are here to stay".

While the NAHT and the NUT are happy to negotiate, we are not prepared to do nothing while the educational experience of primary children is blighted, while colleagues in challenged schools are routinely humiliated by the publication of league tables, and while raw data is used to bully and demoralise the very schools that need to grow in self-belief.

Both of our organisations welcomed The TES sponsorship of the reception at our highly successful joint conference in February. It was here that the deeper alliance between the two unions was born. It is unfortunate that Mr Kelly missed the high-quality debate that would have informed last week's piece. Had he been there, he would have understood why the idea of removing key stage testing in primary schools has such resonance.

Mick Brookes, General secretary, National Association of Head Teachers and Christine Blower, Acting general secretary, National Union of Teachers.

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