The NUT National Executive has voted to give the go-ahead for a boycott of May’s KS2 SATS.
The April 21st meeting of the NUT Executive voted unanimously to sanction the boycott. This follows the successful ballot of NUT Heads and other Leadership Group members which had returned a 3 to 1 majority in support of action. With the NAHT National Council also voting to take action, the two main unions representing primary school headteachers are jointly calling a boycott of these damaging SATs that have blighted education for far too long.
Our boycott can send a message that we expect an incoming Government to listen to teachers and the clear advice from educational researchers: Ditch SATs and League Tables.
SATS damage education
Let’s seize the opportunity we have to stop:
• Schools and staff in English schools being unfairly compared through League Tables that take no account of the many different challenges facing different schools.
• The ‘fear of failure’ enforcing a narrowing of the curriculum that leads much of Year 6 to be dominated by ‘teaching to the test’ to artificially boost SATs scores.
• Imposed targets being used to bully schools and prescribe what we teach.
• An unreliable assessment system condemned by educational research such as the Cambridge Primary Review.
• The annual waste of £23million which could be so much better spent on schools.
What happens next?
We have to move fast. Over the next few days, headteachers and classroom teachers must work together to build as widespread a boycott as possible.
Reports from around the country show that momentum for action is building. The Executive were given a report from a Heads’ meeting in Calderdale where 44 Heads were going to boycott - only 6 were definitely opposed to action.
• The NUT’s advice is “Don’t open the 2010 Maths and English SATs”
• Class teachers should make clear that they will not invigilate SATs – the Pay and Conditions Document states that teachers should not invigilate exams
• Discuss with other schools to give each other confidence to spread the boycott
• Get a message to parents to explain why your school will be boycotting SATs. The NUT is sending out leaflets and a joint NUT/NAHT text for school letters.
What do we tell Year 6?
Teachers would have preferred the boycott announcement to have come much earlier in the year. But trade union legislation meant that for the NUT and NAHT ballots to be legally valid, they could only take place a few weeks before SATs week.
Don't focus on the wasted effort of this year - think about all the wasted energy we can save in future! If - and only if - we launch a boycott this year, then teachers will at last feel confident to stop 'teaching to the test' with a new Year 6 from next September.
After months of telling Year 6 students that these SATs are so important, it's inevitable that some staff may have mixed feelings about suddenly announcing a boycott. But we won't be letting Year 6 down by boycotting! These tests are no use to them!
What do we report to parents?
It's time that we were honest with children and parents and explained that their education will be better off without SATs.
Many parents are already unhappy about the pressure their children are being put under and will support our action. Schools can explain that they will still be reporting teacher assessments - which will give a much better picture of achievement than one-off SATs tests ever could.
Schools will have lots of existing information. Boycotting SATS does NOT mean having to suddenly do lots of additional assessments or set alternative tests instead.
I would urge schools:
• TRUST your professional judgement and assessments when reporting to parents.
• DON’T set tests in "SATs week" - send a clear message that you are boycotting.
• DON’T use the 2010 SATs papers .
• As the NUT/NAHT posters on their way to schools will say - Make sure that your school is a SATS FREE ZONE.
Building the boycott in London
• Look out for the materials on their way to NUT School reps.
• Call meetings of school staff and sign the model letter encouraging your Head to announce a boycott.
• NUT and NAHT members should meet locally to co-ordinate and build the boycott.
• Plan how you are going to contact parents. Organise leafleting and petitioning in local shopping areas.
London NUT has organised these events specifically for Leadership members:
• Monday 26th April: NUT Headteacher members can join a ‘teleconference’ call to speak with other NUT Heads in London about the boycott. Check with NUT Regional Office.
• Wednesday 28th April: All-London meeting for Leadership Group members, 4.30 to 6.00pm at NUT Head Office, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD (Euston or Kings X tubes).