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School tests boycott 'breaches contracts'

TEACHERS will be in breach of their contracts and of their statutory duty if they boycott national testing, the High Court was told yesterday, writes Judith Judd.

Wandsworth council in south London is seeking an injunction to stop the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers boycotting national curriculum assessment and testing. If it goes ahead, tests for 14-year-olds next term will be worst affected because most of the union's members work in secondary schools. The union says testing imposes an excessive workload on teachers.

Patrick Elias QC, for Wandsworth, said children 'had been caught in the crossfire of the guerrilla warfare' between the Secretary of State for Education and the union. The 1988 Education Reform Act placed teachers under a statutory duty to carry out national curriculum assessments and testing.

In an affidavit read in court, Donald Naismith, Wandsworth's chief education officer, said the boycott would disrupt tests for 14-year-olds in some of the borough's secondary schools. The council claims that the union is not engaged in a trade dispute with a minister, which is allowed under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary, said in an affidavit which was read to the court: 'There is a genuine dispute with the Secretary of State over the workload involved in the assessment and testing of the national curriculum.'

The case continues today.