Page last updated at 17:10 GMT, Wednesday, 21 April 2010 18:10 UK

Boycott threatens Sats test chaos

pupil sitting test
Hundreds of thousands of pupils have been getting ready for the tests

Head teachers have announced plans to boycott next month's Sats tests for primary school pupils in England.

Confusion now surrounds the national tests due to be taken by hundreds of thousands of 10 and 11-year-olds.

Mick Brookes, head of the National Association of Head Teachers which is boycotting the tests, said it was targeting a "flawed testing regime".

Schools Secretary Ed Balls urged head teachers to "think hard before disrupting children's learning".

Uncertainty remains over how much disruption will be caused - with Mr Brookes saying there would be no "coercion" to persuade head teachers who did not want to take part in the boycott.

'Meaningless tables'

Mr Balls said there was a statutory duty on heads to oversee tests - and that he would issue advice to governors and local authorities on the threat of a boycott.

Mick Brookes of NAHT: "The tests are a flawed system"

Head teachers say they will not administer tests which they say are "misused to compile meaningless league tables, which only serve to humiliate and demean children".

But they say the boycott is "categorically not strike action" - and that schools will remain open when tests are due to be taken, from May 10 to 13.

Christine Blower, leader of the National Union of Teachers, which is also taking part in the boycott, says instead of taking tests children would have a "brilliant week, a creative week".

The announcement of the action against Sats tests follows a ballot in which 61.3% of NAHT members supported the boycott, on a turnout of just under 50%.

Among NUT members, 74.9% backed the boycott on a turnout of 34%.

Mr Balls said it was "extremely disappointing" that the NAHT and NUT were pressing on with their dispute when the clear majority of heads and deputy heads did not back this action.

"Over two-thirds of their own members did not vote to support disrupting tests," he said.

"Pupils and teachers have been working hard all year and they should all be given the opportunity to demonstrate their achievements. It would be very unfair if some children were prevented from doing so at the last minute."

'Scrapped'

Conservative schools spokesman Michael Gove said: "The national curriculum tests need to be reformed but not scrapped."

There was no way I was going to send children off with practice papers for the holidays and then give them the message that they might not be doing them
Huw Thomas, Sheffield head teacher

And Liberal Democrat David Laws said he wanted changes to league tables, but "we don't believe that school testing policy should be dictated by the teaching unions".

Parents had spoken ahead of the boycott of their concerns that children and teachers will already have worked hard for tests which are now to be scrapped.

And the boycott is opposed by the other big classroom union, the NASUWT.

It remains uncertain how many schools will refuse to administer the tests.

Mr Brookes said he knew that there were heads who were opposed to the boycott in principle. "I respect that. But this is a marker in the sand."

Divided

Head teachers are also divided, even within the unions planning to boycott Sats.

Huw Thomas, head of Emmaus Catholic and Church of England Primary School in Sheffield, and an NUT member, is reluctant to carry out a boycott when pupils have already been revising.

"There was no way I was going to send children off with practice and revision papers for the holidays and then afterwards give them the message that they might not be doing them."

NAHT member, Bob Fletcher, head of North Ealing primary school in London, voted in favour of the boycott and asked his pupils what they thought about the tests.

"They believed the whole process was a complete waste of time and the tests should be scrapped," he said.



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