Further challenge on school test boycott

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THERE IS to be an appeal against a High Court decision that a teacher union's boycott of national curriculum testing and assessment is legal, writes Judith Judd.

Last week's refusal by Mr Justice Mantell to grant Wandsworth council in south-west London an injunction banning action by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers will be challenged in the Court of Appeal in a fortnight. The union's members have voted to boycott testing in protest against increased workloads.

Ministers face the prospect of the Easter teacher union conferences with other teacher unions also considering boycotts. Even the moderate Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which began its annual assembly in Cardiff yesterday, is under pressure to join in.

Peter Smith, its general secretary, warned John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, that he risked confrontation with the association unless he gave details of a promised review of the national curriculum and testing when he addressed the conference today.

Mr Patten would 'need to contemplate what some would describe as a climbdown and what others would say was a courageous recognition of the realities, an opportunity to turn a fresh page, a new start to the national curriculum'.

If the association votes tomorrow for a boycott, Mr Patten will be confronted by a boycott from the three biggest teacher unions.

Harry Isaac, the association's president, said his members had no quarrel with the NASUWT. 'We share entirely their feelings of frustration and despair . . . the pressures for us to join in in some way are intense and powerful.

'Mr Patten must know that this association has rarely taken industrial action and then never lightly nor casually. What he must understand, however, is that many teachers feel that they have no other outlet for the proper and justifiable expression of their educational and professional concerns.'

However, he wished that NASUWT's decision to ballot its members had been made with more political sensitivity and he doubted whether parents and governors would understand the purpose of the National Union of Teachers, whose members have voted in principle to boycott English tests.

Letters, page 19