Teachers beset by weariness and frustration: The school tests boycott ruling is hailed by a union leader as a 'scorching victory'. Diana Hinds looks at the dispute's effect

ON THE first day of the summer term, when told to get on with his technology project, a smart 14-year-old put up his hand and said: 'But Miss, I thought we weren't doing them any more.'

The teacher responded firmly that no, this was not the case: the class should carry on as normal. But the boy's question was entirely to be expected. At the large comprehensive near Croydon in south London, the mood among teachers this week was one of uncertainty - about whether or not they will all boycott the Government's tests this term - and weariness and frustration at the piles of extra paperwork the Government reforms have forced on them.

The headmaster of the school (anonymous because heads and governing bodies are legally obliged to implement testing while teachers are not) had sympathy for his teachers, who he said were in a very difficult situation. 'But we do have a statutory duty. That means that if teachers do boycott the tests, the governors might find themselves forced into taking disciplinary action against them.'

The school's staff divides almost equally between the three big unions. With the National Union of Teachers and the moderate Association of Teachers and Lecturers still to ballot on whether to boycott this year's tests, alongside the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the headmaster is waiting to decide on a course of action. Meanwhile, the departments in the school are already discussing how they should proceed.

In the English department, for instance, the teachers are so exasperated by the Government's tests for 14-year-olds and the chaotic way in which they have been introduced that the department head is considering setting her own tests instead. But in technology and science, where work towards the tests is well under way, teachers said that they intended to conduct the tests as planned, but in some cases would refuse to send the Government the results.

'We will use the Government tests, mark them and report to parents - but we won't submit the results to the Government,' Chris Jones, deputy head of science and an NASUWT member, said. Mrs Jones, like the other NASUWT members in her department, supports the boycott and is critical of the form of the science tests, but said the union had advised teachers to use the tests if it would make more work for them not to.

Gwen Lawton, a science teacher and NASUWT member, said: 'We have decided that marking a test is better than not taking a test, because that is what we have been telling the children. It would be a betrayal of them to say, no, you're not taking it.'

She said the test helped motivate pupils to learn the work. 'We've been telling them they've got to learn all the work, and it's this preparation that is so important.'

The head of technology, a member of the ATL who chose to remain anonymous, opposed a boycott. 'Personally, I am not in favour of boycotting these tests: we are well into them now, and we'll lose credibility with the children if we don't see them through. We have spent much of this year preparing the work, and it would be a waste to call a halt now.'

Even if the ATL votes for a boycott, the union respects individual members who choose not to take industrial action. The head of technology seemed unsure exactly what other teachers in her department, who belong to other unions, might do, but she said she was 'quite positive' that they would all continue with the tests.

In general, the teachers did not object to the idea of a national curriculum, with associated testing, as a way of measuring children's progress, and some said they found the curriculum guidelines helpful.

But all of them had strong criticisms about either the form of the tests, or the vagueness of 'statements of attainment' in the curriculum - which involved a great deal of extra work deciphering what was meant.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?