Education Quandary: Will my union's decision to boycott this year's SATs tests undermine our professional authority?

Hilary's advice

I must be honest. My reaction to this question comes filtered through some unhappy memories of teacher strikes and protests back in the 1980s. There was a day when I was reporting on a case arising out of a school-gate protest that was being heard at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court when a group of Socialist Workers Party teachers, objecting to a feature I had written in The Times Educational Supplement, rammed me against a wall, spat in my face and told me they knew where I lived. And there were all the many days when my son was unable to go to primary school because of teacher strikes.

That half-a-decade of teacher unrest left a long legacy of damage. Children's education was harmed, schools took years to rebuild their full range of programmes and public respect for teachers never quite recovered.

So my reaction to your question about whether, as you put it, teacher strikes and boycotts "make us look like factory workers" is, simply, yes. In fact I'd go further and say there is a direct link between what happened in the 1980s and what is happening now, because one result of those years of industrial action was to edge teacher unions out of national debates about education policy, so that the teachers' view of things such as the national curriculum and external testing has never been properly heard.

That is why we have this summer's proposed boycott of the Key Stage 2 tests. Although only a minority of school heads voted for this, the vast majority of heads and teachers believe these tests are of no value to children and distort the primary school curriculum. They say they cause stress and anxiety, and exist mainly so schools can be ranked in league tables, and politicians can "prove" that standards are improving. I, and many other parents, agree.

But the boycott has been ill-timed. Children, already primed for the test, will want to take it. And it puts at risk all the respect for heads and teachers that has been so painfully rebuilt. Teachers badly need to be respected and listened to, but this will only happen if they behave like the professionals they are.

Readers' advice

The boycott is a professional decision. School leaders are the people who know what is best for children. and the Government could have listened to them and abolished these tests when it abolished the KS3 tests in secondary schools, but it refused to do so. Direct action is now the only way to force change.

Phil Kenmore, London E17

This move has split schools. Some leaders have voted for it because they think that if they don't it looks as if they support the tests. Others are saying they would have voted for it if it had been conducted properly and not been called at the last minute when children and parents are expecting the tests. My own view is that it is not the tests themselves that are the problem, but the way that the data is used in league tables. It is wrong that a school's performance is judged on test results when all schools experience pupils coming and going, and often new pupils are sitting the tests without any previous preparation by the school.

Jennifer Pires, Staffordshire

What will replace the external tests when they are scrapped, as they will be eventually? Teacher assessment could turn out to be a far worse option if it is more complicated and time-consuming. We need a government that believes enough in teachers to allow something simple and efficient to be developed, and then leaves schools and moderators alone to do it by themselves.

Mike Roberts, Hampshire

Next week's quandary

My son used to love science, and we always thought he would take science A-levels, but he has done almost no practical science since he started at secondary school and now seems completely turned off. Is this common? And is there anything we can do to rekindle his enthusiasm?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com. They can be searched by topic.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

News
people

Actress isn't a fan of Ed Miliband

Arts and Entertainment
Rooney Mara plays a white Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
filmFirst look at Rooney Mara in Pan
Life and Style
health

Do you qualify – and how do you get it?

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
i100
News
Privately schooled, Oxford educated and a former editor of arguably the world's poshest magazine 'The Lady', it's perhaps unsurprising that Rachel Johnson rarely mixes with ordinary Proles.
people

The Mayor of London's sister, Rachel Johnson, apologises for shocking tweet about the PM

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Maths Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: We are currently recruiting f...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher -Full Time - ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital