Teachers' union expected to back boycott of tests for seven-year-olds

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The Independent Online

Britain's largest teachers' union is to order a ballot on boycotting national curriculum tests for primary schoolchildren, throwing into doubt tests for more than a million children next summer.

Leaders of the National Union of Teachers are certain to back a boycott of tests for seven-year-olds in England, and are likely to ballot on boycotting those for 11-year-olds in England and Wales when the union's executive meets this morning.

The decision will plunge the union into its most serious confrontation with the Government for more than a decade, when teachers last staged a boycotted in a dispute over workload.

The NUT is objecting to the tests on educational grounds, claiming they put undue pressure on children and squeeze creativity out of the primary school curriculum, as teachers design lesson plans around the tests.

A survey of NUT members revealed an overwhelming majority, 82.5per cent, were in favour of boycotting tests for seven-year-olds. Teachers in England are incensed the Government has failed to follow in the footsteps of the Welsh Assembly, which has scrapped tests for seven-year-olds. The survey also found a majority in favour of boycotting those for 11-year-olds, which would jeopardise tests for around 1.2 million children.

A decision over whether to boycott tests for 14-year-olds remains in the melting pot, though, as research has showed a lower percentage in favour - 64 per cent.

A ballot in favour of a boycott would mean teachers refusing to administer or prepare children for the tests in English, maths and science from the start of next term. However, teachers would stay in school and deliver lessons.

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, has refused to abandon tests for seven-year-olds, which he said are a fundamental part of raising standards in schools. However, he has called for more emphasis to be placed on teachers' individual assessments of their pupils' work. The NUT says this does not go far enough to meet their objections.