Teachers vote to end ban on tests

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The Independent Online
Members of the National Union of Teachers have voted by three to one to end their boycott of national curriculum tests. The result means that testing of 7, 11 and 14-year-olds will go ahead this year.

NUT leaders recommended that members should end the two-year dispute last month after claiming they had won concessions from Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, with the promise of a wide-scale review which would assess the impact of tests on teaching and learning and would include a series of regional conferences.

Ballot papers were distributed to 151,124 teachers. Of those returned, 49,422 voted for the motion , while 16,712 wanted to continue the boycott.

The NUT was the last teaching union refusing to conduct the tests, but its position was growing untenable. While it had insisted that tests were educationally unsound, its action had to be based on workload issues in order to be legal and these had been largely resolved. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers called off action after concessions on testing and the slimming down of the curriculum.

Yesterday, Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the NUT, denied the ending of the action amounted to a climbdown.

He said Mrs Shephard had promised an extensive review which would go beyond technicalities. "This three-to-one majority is a resounding victory for the leadership of the union. It is a massive endorsement of our campaign. Members have demonstrated the significance of the review they have won."

He insisted that only by taking part in the 1995 tests could teachers contribute effectively to the review process. The issue of testing and assessment has caused division at senior levels within the union. Just before the ballot, 15 of the 41-member NUTexecutive urged teachers to defy the leadership.

The result of the ballot came as a leaked letter in the Times Educational Supplement, from Mrs Shephard to Cabinet colleagues, revealed concerns that thousands of teaching posts would disappear and class sizes soar if teachers were given their expected annual pay rise.

Mr McAvoy said the School Teachers' Review Body was "a puppet of the Government".

He urged the Government to fully fund teachers' pay rises and warned: "The ability of local authorities to absorb increasing costs will this year lead to more job losses unless the Government provides extra money."