Staff against SATs but reject boycott

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Teachers in the largest teaching union have shown their displeasure about SATs for children at seven and 11, while rejecting a proposed boycott of this spring's tests in England. The National Union of Teachers balloted its 103,729 members in infant, junior, primary and special schools on industrial action against Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs, but failed to win enough support.

Teachers in the largest teaching union have shown their displeasure about SATs for children at seven and 11, while rejecting a proposed boycott of this spring's tests in England.

The National Union of Teachers balloted its 103,729 members in infant, junior, primary and special schools on industrial action against Key Stage 1 and 2 SATs, but failed to win enough support.

The results of the ballot, announced on 16 December, found that 86 per cent of the 35,327 teachers who voted were in favour of boycotting next year's tests, and 14 per cent were against. But in line with NUT rules, at least 51,866 votes were needed for a boycott to go ahead, with a minimum of two-thirds of those voting yes.

NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy said it was 'a fantastic result', even though 70 per cent of teachers balloted did not vote. This did not mean they supported 'the regime of tasks and tests', he said. 'The Government should be under no illusion that the strength of feeling against tests remains undiminished. The members who voted yes were prepared to take industrial action to end the tests.

'Teachers remain convinced that the tests constrain their professional judgement and undermine children's learning.'

Education secretary Charles Clarke welcomed the result, which he described as 'an important moment' for the NUT. He said, 'A boycott could have been very disruptive. It would have let down pupils and parents. National testing helps drive improvement in all schools.'

Mr McAvoy has vowed to continue the NUT's campaign against tests and is to seek the support of parents and governors. The NUT wants an independent review of testing in England. In Scotland, national tests are to be replaced with teacher assessment, and in Wales Key Stage 1 tests have been abandoned and a review of tests at Key Stage 2 and 3 is planned.

The other teaching unions also want test reforms, but do not support a boycott. David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said it too shared the NUT's concerns about testing seven-year-olds, but believed it 'would be sensible to await the results of the major Key Stage 1 pilot exercise before passing judgement'.

The Key Stage 1 trial of a more flexible approach that combines teacher assessment with tests involves 5,000 schools.

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