Patten tells teachers to end boycott 'mania'

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The Independent Online
JOHN PATTEN, the Secretary of State for Education, yesterday urged teachers to think twice before boycotting national school tests and poured scorn on what he described as the 'boycott mania' of the teachers' unions' Easter conferences.

Mr Patten told the Campaign for Real Education conference in London that a boycott would throw away gains made in raising standards and teachers' hard-won respect. The cost to the status of their profession could take years to recover, he warned.

Threats of a boycott were a 'damaging and unnecessary distraction' from the real issue of improving the national curriculum tests.

'I urge teachers not to throw away the opportunity presented by the review,' said Mr Patten. 'To do so would be a great disservice to pupils, parents and to the professional status of teachers' .

The Education Secretary attacked the teachers' unions which had been meeting by the seaside to 'parade their ritualistic assaults on the Government's education reforms'.

'Testing is here to stay,' said Mr Patten. 'Threats of a boycott are a damaging and unnecessary distraction from the real issue: how, having established the principle, to develop the testing regime in a way that is of most benefit to pupils, parents and to the teachers themselves.

'You don't do that by stopping the process of reform - which the independent inspectorate shows is already working well. There's a better way of showing their concern about testing, and that's to help us make it smoother - as they have done with seven- year-olds since the first tests in 1991 - not to boycott them.'

The National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers is already boycotting the tests. The National Union of Teachers and the traditionally moderate Association of Teachers and Lecturers are about to ballot members on joining the industrial action.

Political Commentary, page 22