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Union ballots on Sats boycott as MPs call for testing to be suspended

MPs criticise 'pressure' and 'stress' caused by Sats, calling for a review of curriculum and assessment at primary level

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A headteachers’ union is continuing to step up its campaign to boycott next year's Sats tests despite the government’s assurances that primary assessment will be reviewed in 2017.

The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) started its indicative ballot of members on Friday last week – just two days after education secretary Justine Greening pledged to launch a new consultation about the future of primary assessment.

On Wednesday last week, the minister revealed that she would be abandoning the government's controversial plans for Year 7 Sats resits and promised that there would be no new national tests or assessments until 2018-19.

If the indicative ballot - which ends next month – is successful, a full ballot will be held in March.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, told TES: “It was always the intent that we would put the proposals before them and ask their views on it. We have just put those two stages together.”

Both the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) have not yet started indicative ballots of their members – but they are not ruling them out.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT, said:  “We are actively consulting members for their views on primary assessment in general, in light of the government’s latest announcement.”

The development comes as an early day motion on Sats in primary schools has been submitted by Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, calling for primary testing to be suspended.

The motion, submitted yesterday, expresses concern about “the negative impact of [Sats] on students in years 2 and 6 and on their teachers” and calls for a government review of curriculum and assessment in primary schools in England.

It says that 90 per cent of teachers believe that preparation for Sats in 2016 has worsened children's wellbeing, mental health and self-confidence.

It adds that "the pressures associated with examinations are among the main causes of feelings of stress and anxiety amongst children, which can in turn lead to lower performance, poor study skills and low self-image.”

It says that teaching to the test has “limited children's access to a broad and balanced curriculum, restricting the time which can be spent on activities which most challenge and interest them, and permanently affecting students' attitudes to education.”

The motion also expresses “further concern for the morale, health and wellbeing of teachers who are suffering an increased and highly demanding workload due to preparation for Sats” and calls for a suspension of current arrangements while a review is underway.

Some early day motions are debated in parliament, but they are normally aimed at generating publicity for an issue.

Most only attract one or two signatures. So far, five backbenchers from the Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and and Plaid Cymru parties have put their names to Ms Lucas' motion.

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