Union offers talks in schools dispute: Patten urged to simplify curriculum

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The Independent Online
THE LEADER of a teachers' union which is boycotting national school tests has offered John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, an olive branch in an attempt to end the dispute.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, has asked for a meeting with Mr Patten to start work on streamlining the national curriculum and devising acceptable testing and assessment arrangements.

The National Union of Teachers, the biggest teachers' union, is poised to declare a boycott of this June's national English tests for 14-year-olds at its conference in Brighton, at Easter.

Mr de Gruchy warned in a letter to Mr Patten that the national curriculum would 'eventually collapse under its own weight' unless it was slimmed down with new testing and assessment arrangements. 'I believe that the NASUWT could help find the solutions to many of the problems involved,' Mr de Gruchy wrote. In a further blow to Mr Patten, the newly-formed group of rebel head teachers, the National Co-ordinating Committee on Learning and Assessment, is threatening to support the boycott and set alternative exams.

Mr Patten is relying on heads and school governors to see the tests go ahead. If the tests and assessments are abandoned by teachers the Government would be forced to scrap this year's national school league tables.

Mr Patten is likely to fight back with a review of the national curriculum and tests. He is expected to instruct the newly-appointed chairman-designate of the proposed Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Sir Ron Dearing, to implement a review to streamline the national curriculum, testing and assessment procedures.

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