Teachers could boycott primary school tests

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A TEACHING union has agreed to consider a ballot for a boycott of future testing of primary school pupils.

The overwhelming majority of delegates at the National Union of Teachers conference voted in favour of calling for head teachers and schools not to participate in the optional baseline tests - for four-year-olds - from September this year.

It also called on Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to cancel the 2016 Standard Assessment Tests (Sats) for seven and 11-year-olds at key stage one and two. If they continue to go ahead, the Department for Education will be asked not to use individual schools’ results in league tables. The NUT also agreed to consider a ballot for a boycott of all SATS tests from next year.

The baseline literacy and numeracy checks, which are not mandatory, take place weeks after infants start in reception. The assessments were piloted last autumn although their formal introduction this year has yet to be confirmed.

Last year some 2,000 head teachers declined to take part in baseline testing - and that number is expected to increase based on the NUT’s vote.

The baseline assessment offered the choice of three providers. It will give a baseline score for the pupils starting school which will be used by the Government to measure the impact each school is having.

There is an incentive for schools to take part in the optional assessment as those which do not will be measured on whether pupils meet academic targets rather than on their progress. The majority of schools which did the baseline in 2015/16 chose a system offered by a small Yorkshire firm. Early Excellence, based near Huddersfield, was one of the approved providers. Its system was popular with schools as it did not involve any formal tests or taking pupils and teachers out of lessons.

Instead teachers were asked to make a series of judgements about each pupil in reception.

A DfE spokesman appeared to rule out to prospect of a U-turn on testing.

He said: “Parents rightly expect us to ensure that their children are leaving primary school having mastered literacy and numeracy and that is why we have tests at the end of Key Stage 2.

“We want to see all children pushed to reach their potential. In order to do that, and to recognise the achievements of schools in the most challenging areas, we want to measure the progress that all pupils make as well as their overall attainment.

“We are always willing to listen to the views of teaching unions and are in regular discussion with them, working with them to ensure that this transition year goes smoothly.

“It is disappointing to see that the NUT are taking this approach, which would disrupt children’s education, rather than working with us constructively as other unions have.”

Liz Marsden, founder and director of Early Excellence, who were the provider chosen by 12,557 schools in 2015 said: “Early Excellence are opposed to ‘testing’ children on entry to reception. Our baseline model was chosen by over 70 per cent of schools because it doesn’t involve tests or disrupt a child’s induction into school. It supports teachers to get to know their children well, assessing what they can do through observation, interaction and everyday activities.”