Should teachers boycott SATs?

Many of us are only too aware that teaching unions are to take industrial action to try to prevent SATs in maths and English taking place this May. But are these tests really “misused to compile meaningless league tables” which “humiliate and demean children, their teachers and their communities”?

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) have agreed not to administer Key Stage 2 SATs, due to be taken by 600,000 children in their last year of primary school from 10th May – 13th May.

Clear majorities of both unions supported the action.

The NUT stressed on its website that this is not strike action: “Schools will open and children will be taught” it said.

‘Meaningless league tables’
“SATs in their current form disrupt the learning process for children in Year 6, and are misused to compile meaningless league tables which only serve to humiliate and demean children, their teachers and their communities. The NUT and NAHT are supportive of a system of assessment that highlights what children can do rather than focussing on failure.”

The NUT explains in guidance notes to teachers from its website that, for head teacher and leadership members to receive the protection afforded by a lawful trade dispute and successful ballot, the action has to begin within 28 days of the ballot closing. This, says the Union, is why the ballot could not take place until late in the spring term.

‘Flawed testing regime’
Mick Brookes, General Secretary of the NAHT, said: “The Government missed the opportunity to reform the assessment for pupils in Key Stage 2 when they abolished the same tests in Key Stage 3 in 2008. We cannot continue to have our colleagues and their school communities in the Primary sector disparaged on the basis of a flawed testing regime. We guarantee that children in Year 6 will leave with accurate information about their achievements that will be both broad and positive.

“We are determined, for all the right reasons, to see positive change. This protest is a significant mark of that determination.”

Government consults lawyers
The action will put unions at loggerheads with the Government: schools secretary Ed Balls was reported in the Guardian to be consulting lawyers over whether “to mount a legal challenge against primary school headteachers in England who intend to boycott national tests for 10 and 11 year olds”.

The paper reported (21.4.10) that both Labour and the Conservatives say they want to keep SATs, although the Tories are considering moving the tests to the first year of secondary school. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have pledged to scale back SATs and use teacher assessment alongside them.

What’s your view on SATs? Do they really humiliate and demean children, their teachers and their communities? Over to you….

4 thoughts on “Should teachers boycott SATs?

  1. In Australia we have also placed amoratorium on national testing. We have had standardised testing for a while but league tables have always been illegal until this year when the legislative protections were overturned (by the Labor Government – go figure?)

    We do not want to go down the road of a narrowed curriculum or the shaming of struggling communities. With lots of Australian teachers having taught in England we are wellaware of the impact ofleague tables on school communities. We are also facing various fines and penalties (depending what state you are in – this is a national campaign). Teachers feel so strongly about this issue that they will ignore fines and threats of discipline.

  2. I personally do not think that SATS should be abolished or Teachers boycott SATS. Already children are having lots of difficulties puting on paper what it is they are learning or have learnt. How would we assess them otherwise? When they need to be used to doing exams properly, and they are not. When it comes much much later, they do not know how to do it! By then it would be too late to redress some issues I believe that practice makes perfect. I am not just thinking about my work load as a teacher in setting up and marking the works, or the intricacies of assessing learners properly and documenting it, but I am also thinking of what I believe will help the learners engage in their education and be assessed properly. Many learners do not seem to put much efforts into their learning until you mention a test or an exam. One can easily see the place of regular testing in various forms to the learner and as good feedback on the quality and extent of learning achieved. I am aware that my views may not be a popular opinion to many. Let’s take a look at many of the cramming and crashing learning moments that preceds many test and exams!

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