A week in

1st April 2016 at 00:00

Teachers have backed a call for a ballot to boycott next year’s primary national tests. Delegates at the NUT teaching union’s annual conference in Brighton last weekend also voted in favour of a campaign to cancel next term’s Sats after a year of “chaotic” assessment change. Teachers carried an emergency motion calling for a potential ballot for a boycott of new baseline tests for four and five-year-olds, and key stage 1 and 2 tests “at the most appropriate time”.

The call for a boycott follows an NUT survey, which finds an overwhelming majority of teachers are worried about the spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag) test. In the poll of more than 5,200 key stage 1 and 2 teachers in England, more than 90 per cent said that much of the material in the Spag was too advanced or inappropriate for the age groups being tested. Meanwhile, 90 per cent of teachers believe that the current assessment arrangements in primary schools are causing stress for pupils, and 96 per cent think that it is wrong for teachers to be asked to prepare pupils for reading tests without guidance on what constitutes an expected level of attainment.

Primary teachers attending the NASUWT conference in Birmingham warned that the removal of national curriculum assessment levels had created excessive workload. Delegates called for research into an alternative system. Damien McNulty, a member of the union’s national executive, said that under current arrangements some primary teachers were completing as many as 3,000 separate tick-box statements for a class of 30 children. “It’s absolutely horrific,” he said. Gwerfyl White, from the union’s south-east Surrey branch, said: “National curriculum levels, my understanding from what I’ve heard, is a system that is not broken, so why are we changing it, why are we fixing it?”

NUT general secretary Christine Blower, claimed that the benefits of early years education were being “put at risk” by a government intent on making it “overly formal, and undervaluing the critical role of learning through play”. She added: “Small children must be able to engage through play in sensitively structured, creative and responsive environments with well-trained teachers. The purpose of early years is not to make young learners ready for school. It is a unique stage with its own goals.”

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