Teachers' leader 'challenged' law

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The Independent Online
A Teacher's leader admitted yesterday that she had challenged the law by keeping her children away from school on the days of national curriculum tests.

Christine Blower, incoming president of the National Union of Teachers, told the union's conference in Harrogate that she had kept Sophie, aged 13, away from school for tests at the age of 11, and she intended to keep her six-year-old daughter Eleanor away on the days of national tests at seven, which she is due to take next term.

Under the law, schools have a duty to implement the tests in English, maths and science at seven, 11 and 14, but parents do not have to ensure that their children take them. However, parents are required to see that their children attend school. Legal action is taken only against those whose children persistently truant from school.

Mrs Blower, a member of the union's hard left, said: "My own children have spent their whole educational career to date under the imposed National Curriculum. As a parent I haven't subjected them to tests. Instead, I've had letters about unauthorised absence. I'm looking forward to another next term." The new president works in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham with children with behavioural difficulties. Sophie now attends Holland Park Comprehensive School.

Outside the conference she said: "What kind of law is it for which there is no redress? No one suggested to me that there was any civil or criminal redress for taking this action which I thought as a parent was quite acceptable."

She said she had received a letter from her daughter's head teacher saying that her absence was unauthorised.

She had discussed her decision with Sophie who had looked at some of the test papers and decided she could see no point in taking them. Instead, she had done work at home.

"Other parents should think very hard about whether having their children tested is in their best interests," she said.

In a fighting speech she called for strike action over both class size and staffing in nursery classes. She also pledged opposition to Labour policies on testing and league tables.