John Patten said he could not afford to allow the Government's educational reforms to stall: 'We are at a critical moment in the introduction of education reforms. It is extremely easy on the back of the (Newbury) by- election defeat to say we have to stop doing this or that or the other because clearly it has made us unpopular.
'You do not succeed in the process of reform by stopping. You simply fall off the bicycle, and you never get pedalling again,' he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
The embattled minister recognises that testing of 14-year-olds will be patchy because of the teacher boycott, but he believes that some schools and teachers do want to do it. His officials pointed out that many primary schools had almost completed testing seven-year-olds anyway.
Sir Ron Dearing, chairman of the curriculum and assessment authorities, reiterated his view that evidence from the tests would help his review of the national curriculum, but he did not want to take sides 'in what has become an industrial relations issue'.
Sir Ron, speaking in London at the first consultation conference for his review of the curriculum, told teachers that he hoped the review would provide them with 'a better tool for their job'.