Union threat hangs over classroom tests: NUT conference votes to carry on boycotting 'educationally unsound' policy. Fran Abrams reports

CLASSROOM tests for 7, 11 and 14- year-olds will be hit by new disruption this summer.

Britain's biggest teaching union has voted to continue its boycott of the tests and to back it up with strike action if necessary.

The National Union of Teachers could face court action over its stance. The decision was taken at the union's annual conference in Scarborough, north Yorkshire, which ends today.

The boycott was declared legal last year on the basis that it was over teachers' workloads, but the NUT has also declared its opposition to the tests on educational grounds. The other two main teaching unions, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), have withdrawn their boycotts of tests in the light of a government commitment to slim them down.

Yesterday, NUT members accused their sister organisations of becoming too close to ministers - Baroness Blatch, the Minister of State for Education, will speak at both the NASUWT and the ATL conferences this week.

It is rumoured that she may announce the use of external markers for the tests, a move which would be opposed by the NUT on the grounds that it would undermine teachers' professional standing.

The NUT is also likely to hold local one-day strikes this year over redundancies, class sizes and new contracts for members in sixth- form colleges.

Marian Darke, last year's president of the union, told the conference that to carry out the tests would be professionally and morally indefensible.

'Our position is absolutely clear,' she said. 'We will not carry out tests that are educationally unsound. We are against additional workload, but we are also against unnecessary workload.'

Doug McAvoy, the general secretary, said the use of tests for league tables was another factor which reinforced the union's implacable opposition to them.

If its position led to the NUT being taken to court, it would mount a strong defence, he added.

'We will argue that there is still unnecessary and additional workload, but we have never sought to conceal our opposition to the principle of the tests being used for league tables or our opposition to the educational unsoundness of them,' he said.

John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, told BBC radio yesterday that he was disappointed by the NUT's decision to take industrial action.

He said: 'I am very saddened, and I think parents will be frankly bewildered that just when standards are beginning to improve. . . we are suddenly back in the middle of the Sixties. We could have one- day strikes right in the middle of the A-levels - that can't be right.'

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the NUT, faces a leadership challenge from his left-wing deputy. Mary Hufford, who has worked with Mr McAvoy for the past five years, will stand against him when he comes up for re-election in June. She said at the weekend that his pounds 67,000 salary was excessive and that recent trips to America and Australia were a distraction from the real job of running the union.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power