Members of the NUT union have voted to ballot for a boycott of new baseline assessments for four-year-olds.
The tests can be taken from this summer onwards, before being made mandatory in 2016. The literacy and numeracy assessments have been designed to assess how much progress students have made between the ages of four and 11.
Ministers have insisted that the move will help ensure children leave primary school with a good standard of reading, writing and maths.
But a motion unanimously agreed at the union’s annual conference in Harrogate this morning called for members to “work towards a boycott of baseline assessment, as part of a strategy to undermine testing in primary schools”.
It slammed the primary curriculum as already “over-crowded”, and said the “high stakes” assessment would have a “negative impact on children’s education”.
The conference also backed an amendment to the motion, which stated that “schools should not take part in the early trial”, and called on the union to work with other teaching unions and parent groups to “persuade schools not to start the scheme in September 2015”. It agreed to “begin a campaign towards a boycott” in the summer term, with a view to this being in place for the formal introduction of the tests in 2016.
Lambeth teacher Helen Pope told the conference that the NUT should have “nothing to do with” the tests, while Sara Tomlinson said: “Four is too young to test.”
Ms Tomlinson, who also teaches in Lambeth, added. "What we are doing to children is absolutely disgraceful. The stress on our children is just ridiculous, and that stress is clearly on teachers too. We have teachers bursting into tears, children bursting into tears. We cannot continue this kind of education."
The NUT conference also heard the exam reforms in the secondary sector had resulted in “excessive workload for teachers and poorer life chances for the students in their care”.
A separate motion criticised GCSE reforms. From 2017, students will be graded from 9-1 instead of A*-G. The move, the conference heard, was “flawed, disingenuous and a clear attempt to encourage an elitist education system which seriously disadvantages some of our most vulnerable students”.
Commission created to help schools assess without levels - 25 February 2015
Tests for four-year-olds to be introduced by 2016 - 27 March 2015