Will heads smash league tables?

5th May 2006 at 01:00
Could next week's tests for 11-year-olds be the last that are turned into league tables?

They will be if the National Association of Head Teachers has its way. The association voted this week at its annual conference to press the Government to scrap the key stage 2 tables "without delay".

Mick Brookes, NAHT general secretary, now plans to invite the five other main education unions to discuss ways to abolish the tables.

He said it was too early to talk of industrial action, but hinted that headteachers could encourage parents to bring their pupils to school late for the tests, thus invalidating the results. "Let this be the last year this abomination is placed on schools," he said.

There was grumbling from the other unions that the NAHT was attention seeking, as all six signed a joint statement last year opposing the tables.

But none said they would not go to the meeting.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said she believed that abolishing league tables would be achieved by presenting a more convincing educational argument to ministers.

"We need to make the intellectual argument, to show that they are not an accurate set of measures and they are not raising standards," she said.

Dr Bousted pointed out that an attempt by the National Union of Teachers to boycott the tests in 2004 failed when too few teachers supported it. "The danger of going to the barricades is that we may not get all our troops behind us," she said.

The Professional Association of Teachers, Association of School and College Leaders and the NUT also said that reasoning with the Government was likely to be more successful.

An NUT spokeswoman said: "Politicians change jobs and they can change their minds."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, was the most sceptical about the meeting. "It's not something I'd clear my diary for," she said. I will take the ritual posturing of NAHT on this matter seriously when they organise a ballot of their members to refuse to pass on the information which enables the compilation of league tables".

The league tables were criticised at the NAHT conference in Harrogate by many delegates, including Rona Tutt, former association president. "It is meaningless to say that 'Every Child Matters' when pupils are used as data fodder," she said.

Stephen Dainty, head of St Josephs RC primary, Wirral, was among heads who said they would be willing to take action.

"We've tried every other negotiating tactic," he said. "The league tables pit one school against another and need to be stopped."

Labour and Conservative politicians have said they have no intention of scrapping the tables, although they are opposed by the Liberal Democrats.

There are no league tables in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

NAHT conference 15

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