Balls: test refusal is unlawful

The government last night gave a blunt warning to teachers ahead of a vote tomorrow that boycotting national curriculum tests for 600,000 11-year-olds would be illegal. The intervention raised the stakes in the row over the tests with members of the National Union of Teachers, who plan to back a boycott of tests in maths, English and science at their conference in Cardiff today. Aides to the Schools Secretary Ed Balls said it would be unlawful for headteachers not to deliver the tests.

The warning may also be aimed at the National Association of Head Teachers which proposes a similar boycott at its annual conference next month.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said the NUT's move was "irresponsible" and "unlawful". A spokesman said: "A boycott would be highly disruptive to children's education and damage the standing of the teaching profession."

The Government's move raises the spectre of court action against the NUT and the NAHT should their members back a boycott. Graham Clayton, the NUT's senior solicitor, said the union did not believe its action would be unlawful. "There is no such risk," he said.

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