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Union test boycott will stay

The National Union of Teachers will carry on its boycott of national curriculum tests after a survey of members revealed that a large majority are still opposed to them.

More than nine out of ten do not think that the Government has resolved teachers' concerns about testing and assessment and more than 95 per cent said they disagreed that the test results of 11-year-olds should be used for exam league tables.

Three-quarters of those primary and middle school teachers who responded to the survey (25 per cent of members) said they do not think that the new arrangements for key stage 1 or key stage 2 will significantly reduce their workload. And more than half the secondary respondents said external markers at key stage 3 will not significantly reduce teachers' workloads.

Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary, said: "Our members' concerns over workload continue. They do not believe that there will be sufficient supply teachers available to ease the burden of implementing these tests. They are also concerned that local education authorities will not be able to fund their part of the bill for supply teachers unless cuts are made in other areas."

The survey results were studied by the union's executive and while there had been a call for some members to call off the boycott, the NUT is expected to interpret the response of its members as a willingness to go on with the action.

Mr McAvoy said he was confident that if the union was balloted on whether to continue the boycott - the specific question was not asked in the survey - he would still get the two-thirds majority needed.

And he warned the Labour party that it too could find itself in conflict with the union if it did not change its policy on league tables. David Blunkett this week gave his support to retaining examination tables in some form.

The union remains the only one to continue with the boycott. Mr McAvoy has requested a meeting with Gillian Shephard, the Education Secretary. But a Department for Education spokesman said: "The Government has already taken a range of steps to tackle the workload associated with the tests and enhance teachers' professionalism."

NUT members also signalled strongly their objections to the tests on educational grounds. Almost 90 per cent of primary and middle-school teachers said they do not believe the retention of statutory external tasks and tests at key stage 1 is justified educationally.

* Scottish teachers have rejected a 2.3 per cent pay offer by a majority of nearly two to one and are expected to take part in a series of one-day strikes.

The Educational Institute of Scotland balloted its 40,000 members and Jim Martin, general secretary, said they indicated that the offer was not acceptable and teachers were prepared to use industrial action to win a fair award.

The union will now hold a ballot to decide on a programme of strikes, starting with a one-day stoppage on December 15 - and more in the new year if necessary.

Mr Martin said: "Teachers have run out of patience. The offer will further erode teachers' standing compared with the movement in average earnings in the economy generally and in comparison with teachers elsewhere in the UK."

Teachers' pay and conditions in Scotland are determined by the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee and not the School Teachers Review Body.

Elizabeth Maginnis, convener for the management, said: "I understand why teachers in Scotland should be looking for an increase similar to that of their colleagues in England and Wales. But the authorities south of the border have indicated that the 2.9 per cent award will lead to a reduction in job numbers. "

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