This year’s teaching conferences mirrored the heated debates raging in education over the Coalition’s far reaching reforms, spearheaded by Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove.
NUT delegates unanimously backed a call to boycott the new reading tests for six year-olds and spelling, grammar and punctuation test for 11 year-olds, The Independent reports. They claimed the tests won’t leave any time for subjects like art and drama in the timetable. Delegate Joan Edwards said the proposals would create ‘a world without music, without art, without creativity’, and added: “That’s what Gove wants. We as teachers want to develop a more broad and balanced curriculum education for our children.”
The teachers are furious that Michael Gove wants them to tell parents how their six year-olds have done in the tests, arguing that it will damage children ‘by labelling them as failures’. The NUT will hold talks with other unions with a view to boycotting the tests next year.
Mr Gove also came under attack from the NUT for his revised national curriculum. Delegates claimed that its emphasis on core knowledge was a throw-back to rote learning and uncreative lists of facts, describing it as ‘Gove’s pub quiz curriculum’, according to the BBC.
The union published a survey of more than 2,000 of its members who oppose the planned curriculum, with two-thirds of them saying there was ‘too much emphasis on ‘facts’ rather than ‘skills’’. The DfE rejected the criticism, saying: “This could not be further from the truth. The draft national curriculum is challenging and ambitious and will give every child the broad and balanced education they need to fulfil their potential.”
ATL’s conference called for the changes to qualifications for 14 to 16 year-olds to be shelved, to allow extensive research to be carried out into their impact, The Telegraph reports. It warned that scrapping coursework and moving towards end-of-course tests will discriminate against girls and create a new gender gap in education.
Geoff Venn, a retired chemistry teacher who was involved in exams, said that girls are less confident when taking end-of-course exams and that their results have improved with the move towards coursework, especially in science.”If we go back to pure rote learning, to pure single exam at the end of the course, will this have a considerable gender impact on the results that we get? Is it going to be discriminatory against girls? I think it will be,” he said.
Did you attend your union’s conference and if so what did you make of it? Do you think the conferences reflect teachers’ real concerns?