Government faces SATs battle with teachers

The Government is set to face a battle with teachers over national curriculum tests and academies after the general election - whatever the outcome.

Thousands of headteachers and deputies are currently being balloted by the National Union of Teachers (NUT) over a boycott of this year's tests, and the union's general secretary, Christine Blower, today said she was "confident" of success.

The tests, known as Sats in English and maths are due to be taken by around 600,000 11-year-olds the week beginning May 10 - potentially less than a week after the country goes to the polls.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is also taking part in the ballot, which will close on April 16.

Christine Blower said the NUT is balloting all of its members in leadership roles in primary schools who have responsibility for administering the tests.

She said: "We are asking leadership members, heads, deputies and assistant heads to frustrate the administration of the tests.

"If we have a successful ballot outcome, which I am confident we will, we will be issuing a list of instructions as to what those members should not do."

Pupils will still attend school on these days, but will not sit the tests, she added.

"It's not a strike, we are not asking anybody to breach their contract by not going to work. The children will be there, in many schools they may do far more interesting things than they would otherwise be doing."

The NUT and the NAHT originally passed resolutions at their annual conferences last year, proposing the action if the tests are not scrapped, and indicative ballots held at the end of last year showed widespread support for a boycott.

The unions want to see Sats replaced by teacher assessment and argue the tests are bad for children, teachers and education, and cause unnecessary stress. They also want to see school league tables abolished.

A motion set to be debated at the NUT's Easter conference calls for a continued campaign against the tests, including "taking industrial action up to and including strike action to disrupt the administration of Sats".

A new government is also likely to face a fight over plans to continue the academies programme.

The NUT is expected to debate a motion saying local parent and community campaigns "with decisive actions by trade unionists, including strike action, have proved the most effective way to stop academies".

"Further expansion of the academies programme may tip the balance from a coherently planned, local and democratic education system into a wasteful patchwork of privatised, competing school market places in which those with the "buying power" will do best," it says.

It calls for the union to "continue to expand the campaign against academies, trust and "free" schools.

Ms Blower said it "cannot be demonstrated that academies are improving education across the piece".

She said there had previously been action which prevented academies from being opened, citing campaigns in Newham and Derbyshire as examples.

Academies - which are semi-independent state schools - have been a flagship measure of Labour's education policy and they want to see the programme expanded.

The Tories have said they would put forward an immediate Bill which would allow schools to apply straight to the Schools Secretary for approval to become an academy. Some 600 schools rated "outstanding" would also be automatically pre-approved.

But Ms Blower said shadow schools secretary Michael Gove's "threat to put a rocket boost under the programme" is not workable.

"I don't think it is actually going to be able to happen. We will continue to say he shouldn't be doing it," she said.