Patten will not publish English test league table

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The Independent Online
JOHN PATTEN, Secretary of State for Education, said yesterday that English tests for 14-year- olds will go ahead this summer, but promised that the results will not be published in national league tables.

His announcement is a significant concession to the six teaching unions, who have protested that the tests are ill-prepared and have not been adequately piloted; three unions have threatened to boycott them. But yesterday the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers refused to be mollified by the decision and said they would still ballot their members on a boycott.

Schools will be required to report the results of this year's English tests to parents, and the results will also be published as national totals. But they will not be included in examination league tables until 1994, making this year's tests effectively a trial. Mr Patten said that in future, test results for other subjects would only be published nationally from the second year of their introduction.

Asked yesterday on BBC Radio 4 why he had changed his mind about publishing the results, Mr Patten said: 'It was quite clear that some teachers were so nervous about the tests - although they have no reason to be, these tests are not designed to trick children - that they were threatening non co-operation and boycotts. I think this is most unfortunate, so we have taken this decision which will be broadly welcomed.'

Peter Smith, general secretary of the moderate Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which had been considering a boycott, said: 'This is reassuring news for pupils and parents, and it is highly unlikely that our members will now want a boycott. There are, of course, still serious problems with the national curriculum which must be resolved.'

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said he 'broadly welcomed' the decision not to publish the English results, which met his union's major objection to the tests. But Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: 'Mr Patten has failed to meet the concerns of teachers. These tests are fundamentally flawed and the decision not to publish the results will not change that situation . . . the Government should take the next logical step and withdraw these tests.'

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said Mr Patten's decision was 'totally inadequate' and failed to address teachers' concern over the workload imposed by the tests. Earlier this week, Mr Patten met five unions but refused to meet the NASUWT because of its intention to ballot on a boycott of all national tests. Mr de Gruchy said yesterday the union would continue with the ballot.

Ann Taylor, Labour's education spokeswoman, said: 'This is an acknowledgement by Mr Patten that the arrangements are flawed. His announcement represents only a partial climb-down from what was an untenable position. He must now consider a climb- down over the testing arrangements themselves.'

This year's national league tables will cover 4,000 state secondary schools, 19,000 primary schools, 2,000 independent schools and 470 sixth-form and further education colleges.