Teaching unions considering boycott to 'stop SATs in their tracks'

A boycott of administering SATs for 11-year-olds by school heads would effectively "stop them in their tracks", the leader of the country's largest headteachers' organisation said yesterday.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), was speaking as both his organisation and the National Union of Teachers launched plans to consult their members over a boycott of the tests in maths and English next May.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said her organisation would be asking its members to back three actions: a ban on administering the tests, a ban on reporting their results, and support for any teacher who refused to "teach to the test" in the run-up to next May.

Union leaders will have the results of an indicative ballot on industrial action by early next month. A final ballot will take place in March or April if no agreement can be reached with the Government on reducing the test burden. Ms Blower said that 25,000 parents had now signed a petition calling for the tests to be scrapped.

Supporters of the NUT's campaign include former Children's laureate Michael Rosen and the prominent children's author Philip Pullman. "If we decided we're not going to administer the tests, they would be stopped in their tracks," said Mr Brookes. His union, the NAHT, will be surveying both primary and secondary school heads. That is because secondaries are also affected by the tests as many introduce their own examinations because they do not trust the results of the SATs. The NUT will be balloting more than 100,000 members who are directly involved in testing primary aged children.

However, the Schools minister Vernon Coaker said: "A boycott of statutory tests would be disruptive to pupils and risk doing real damage to the standing of the profession."

The Government yesterday rejected a plea from MPs on the Commons select committee covering education to consider giving anonymity to teachers facing allegations of abuse from pupils until they are convicted.