Why the unions are making a stand over Sats

10th April 2009 at 01:00

Gerard Kelly's editorial on the proposed Sats boycott by the NUT and NAHT unions reminded me of the moderate black leadership's response to America's Civil Rights movement: "You'll only provoke a backlash. You will fail. Let's keep writing letters."

There is a time and tide in events when gentle persuasion has failed and action is the only option. Almost every conceivable organisation in education has called for change. Scotland has never used Sats and Wales scrapped them. Unicef identified testing as a factor contributing to children's unhappiness - a conclusion that the Children's Society endorsed.

When the BBC's Panorama programme asked children to depict the tests as animals, they all, spontaneously, drew monsters. Quizzed by a journalist, the schools minister, Jim Knight, responded that "a little bit of stress doesn't do any harm". What planet is he on? This is a government that has refused to listen to teachers, heads and parents.

But a boycott of Sats is riven with complications. It may well founder in a minefield of legal challenges. It might also isolate Year 6 teachers and heads. The alternative is to involve all teachers in strike action during Sats week. The abolition of Sats is a just and noble cause.

As Martin Luther King once put it: "One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

Richard Knights, Liverpool.

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