Teachers may face legal action if tests boycott goes ahead

Heads and teachers may face legal action after deciding to go ahead with their boycott of national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds next month.

Leaders of both the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) decided yesterday to boycott the tests – due to be taken by 600,000 pupils in English and maths in the week beginning 10 May.

That followed ballot results in favour of a boycott declared last Friday. The NUT voted 76 per cent in favour, while the NAHT was 61 per cent. The action will mean heads refusing to open the test papers when they are sent to schools and will present the incoming government with its first industrial-relations headache.

The unions are angry that league tables mean too much time is spent teaching to the test – and that schools which do badly are pilloried.

"We cannot continue to have our colleagues in the primary sector disparaged on the basis of a flawed testing regime," said Mick Brookes, general secretary of the NAHT.

The Schools Secretary Ed Balls said his department would be discussing the next step with school governors and local authority representatives. It could fall upon the employers to initiate legal action. "It's not just that heads have a statutory duty to oversee tests – they have a professional and moral duty to put the best interests of pupils first," said Mr Balls.

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