There is a 'moral case' for boycotting baseline assessment and Sats, says union leader

Delegates at NEU annual conference will consider calls for industrial action to scupper 2019 pilot to assess reception children

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There is a “moral case” for teachers to boycott the planned baseline assessment of four-year-olds, a teachers’ leader has said.

The government’s overhaul of primary assessment includes plans to introduce an assessment of children in reception, which will be used as a starting point to measure their progress during their time in primary school.

It is due to be piloted in 2019, before being rolled out nationally the following year.

The plans have proved controversial, with the More than a Score coalition claiming young children “will be pushed into a world of high-stakes assessment”, but the NAHT headteachers’ union has “cautiously welcomed” the plans.

The NUT section of the NEU teaching union will debate boycotting the baseline assessment, as well as key stage 2 tests, at its annual conference over Easter.

Sats boycott debate

The conference agenda reveals the union will be launching “a major campaign” to encourage schools not to take part in the pilot of the baseline, which will include “using industrial action if necessary”.

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney told Tes: “Is there a moral case for boycotting the Sats and baseline? I think there absolutely is. There is a moral case for doing that.

“Whether it’s the right practical politics for now, that’s a question that conference is going to look at.”

A motion from the NUT’s Waltham Forest section calls for schools involved in the baseline pilot to be balloted on a boycott, and for a special conference to be held in autumn 2019 to see if there is support for a boycott of Sats and baseline testing in 2020.

'We want change'

An amendment proposed by the union’s executive calls for an indicative survey of members in all primary and infant schools to gauge where “formal industrial action ballots might be successful as part of the campaign to stop the baseline pilot going ahead”.

The NUT’s executive also wants to seek the NAHT’s support for the campaign to challenge the primary assessment system over the next two years.

Mr Courtney added: “We want to see a fundamental change. We don’t want to see a boycott. The question of how we get to that fundamental change is a question that our conference will be debating, and I think there will be strong support at the conference for calls for a boycott.”

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