Mick Brookes: What are we doing to our children in the name of assessment?

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The Independent Online

I apologise for the fact that in two weeks' time England's Year 6 children will be going through the same farcical testing system that should have been abolished many years ago.

But I do not apologise to anyone for joining with our colleagues in the National Union of Teachers to ensure that 2009 really is the last year that England's children, their teachers, their schools and their communities are subject to this tyranny.

We do have a real moral dilemma faced by others throughout history, when rules, regulations or regimes block the greater good. For example: Without civil disobedience women would not have the vote. Without civil disobedience the right to roam on places like Kinder Scout would not have happened.

But let me be clear, we have no desire whatsoever to be in conflict with the Government, but it appears we are given no option.

We are told that a boycott would be "disruptive to pupils and parents". Colleagues – this beggars belief on the back of the ETS scandal last year, where the only credit that the Department for Children, Schools and Families can claim is that they managed to salvage some of the millions of pounds of taxpayers' money invested in that company.

What is disrupting to pupils is the intrusion into high-quality primary education in Key Stage 2 where good teachers are pressurised into teaching for the test for up to 10 hours a week.

What is disrupting and demeaning to pupils is having four years' work assessed by a 45-minute test. What is disrupting to parents is having their child miserable in the very year that they should be revelling in the zenith of their primary years.

Colleagues, I have evidence of children coming in to take the tests despite the fact that they are ill, have broken limbs or have to take the test with a sick bucket nearby in case they throw up. What are we doing to these children in the name of politically motivated independent assessment?

We have also been told that we risk damage to the standing of the profession. I say we risk greater damage and recruitment to the profession by allowing this nonsense to continue.

This is an edited extract from a speech given by the General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers to its annual conference in Brighton yesterday