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)

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on pottermore site this morning

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser

Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Early Years Teacher - Jan 2015 - China

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Position: Early Years TeacherRequired: J...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

Primary Teachers required - Cardiff and the Vale

£95 - £105 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: KS1 ...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes