Teachers are threatening a boycott of controversial new tests for primary school children – claiming they will leave no time for subjects like art and drama in the school timetable.
Delegates at the National Union of Teachers’ annual conference unanimously backed a move to organise a boycott of new reading tests for six-year-olds – which ask them to spell made up words to test their understanding of phonics – introduced for the first time next year.
In addition, they also plan to boycott a new spelling, grammar and punctuation test for 11-year-olds being introduced for 600,000 11-year-olds for the first time this summer.
In particular, teachers are incensed by Education Secretary Michael Gove’s insistence they should tell parents how their children have fared in the tests for six-year-olds, arguing it will cause educational damage ... to young learners by labelling them as failures”.
The motion added the teachers “reject the idea that parents should be informed in writing that children have failed a test at the age of five or six”.
Joan Edwards, from Birmingham, told the conference the Government’s school proposals would create “a world without music, without art, without creativity”. “That’s what Gove wants,” she added. “We as teachers want to develop a more broad and balanced curriculum education for our children.
“We want children to develop a love of reading and writings – but SATs and synthetic phonics tests need to be eradicated for this.”
She urged Mr Gove to study the education systems of other European countries where children started formal schooling at the age of seven not five as in the UK.
As the debate continued, a number of teachers in the hall started chanting “Gove must go”.
Jane Nellist, from Coventry, added: “If we know that this curriculum is not going to be appropriate and is going to stifle creativity and learning and damage the life chances of our young people, then we have a responsibility to our communities to fight it.”
Philip Griffin, from Wokingham, argued: “We’re not saying grammar isn’t important, spelling isn't important, punctuation isn’t important but this test is not important.
“What is important is our children write cohesive, coherent and sensible English.”
The union will now hold talks with other teachers’ organisations with a view to boycotting the tests next year. The National Association of Head Teachers, which has a large primary school membership, in particular, has voiced concern over the tests.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “Teachers really do feel passionately about Michael Gove’s changes to the primary school curriculum.
“The hoops that young children will have to jump through will leave children feeling a failure.”