Pupils' tests are marked by their teachers, who also have to record detailed assessments in each subject. Faced with trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot, teachers in England and Wales would operate their own list of priorities, Mike Latham, chairman of the association's conditions of employment committee, says. 'Less essential' tasks such as marking Standard Assessment Tests (Sats) for seven and 14- year-olds would go to the bottom of the list.
The statement from the 145,000-strong association - formerly the Assistant Masters and Mistresses Association, which has a reputation for moderation - is another sign of teachers' low morale. Last week, an HM Inspectorate report said: 'The time taken up by assessment, recording and reporting remains a concern for many teachers and has not so far led to a general increase in standards of teaching and learning.'
The inspectors said that the tests for seven-year-olds had been made more manageable in the light of the first-year pilot in 1991. But the report added: 'The question remains whether the complexity of national curriculum assessment, recording and reporting as currently conceived is in fact manageable by all schools.'
General discontent at increased workload and frequent changes to what pupils must be taught and tested on has been brought to a head by last-minute alterations to the tests in English for 14-year-olds. More than 600 schools have indicated potential support for a boycott, according to the National Association for the Teaching of English. A boycott of pilot tests for 11-year-olds has been called for by the National Association of Head Teachers, which represents 90 per cent of primary head teachers in England and Wales.
The ATL has not backed a boycott. However, Mr Latham says: 'Teachers are expected to do the impossible . . . If action is not taken, teachers who now average a 52-hour plus week will go slower and slower - not out of militant bloody-mindedness, but through sheer exhaustion.'
In Scotland, a large-scale boycott by parents - not teachers - compelled ministers to abandon proposals for national testing at eight, 12 and 14. Pupils will now be tested up to five times between the ages of five and 14 as teachers consider appropriate.Reuse content