Leading article: It would be irresponsible of heads to boycott Sats tests

An impasse looms – but transparency serves both parents and pupils well

Share
Related Topics

It is a measure of the Government's general discomfort that it has fallen out so spectacularly with the teaching profession, not so long ago a natural ally of New Labour and of Tony Blair, with his celebrated rallying cry of "education, education, education".

But after 94 per cent of head teachers voted at their conference at the weekend to back a boycott of tests for seven- to 11-year-olds, the National Association of Head Teachers, in company with the NUT, have placed themselves on collision course with the Schools Secretary Ed Balls.

Whether Mr Balls will still be there to handle an eventual crisis over Standard Assessment Tests next summer is far from clear, however. As the country may have had an election by then, it is conceivable that the Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove will be the person wrestling with the consequences of a teacher's boycott.

The two sides meanwhile are becoming locked into their respective positions, with teachers railing against the alleged "tyranny" of the Sats and the Schools Secretary repeating his mantra that scrapping assessment of primary schools would be wrong, and parents would not approve. While heads have many grievances against Sats, and charge that too much time is given over to "teaching to the tests" to the exclusion of arts and sports, Mr Balls – already on the defensive as regards the teachers unions – must not abandon the principle of transparency. In other words, the rights that parents now enjoy to inspect the results of primary schools and contrast them with other schools a round the country must not be removed or diluted.

Mr Balls, however, is already sounding uncertain, suggesting that assessment of schools through Sats should be replaced by Report Cards. These, he says, would paint a broader, fairer picture of schools by including information on pupils' background. Fair enough, but in the end results are what count and no replacement for Sats must subvert that essential point.

Another idea, which is to retain Sats but abolish the national league tables, though often presented as an honourable compromise, ought to be treated with considerable reserve. Its sponsor, another teaching union, the NASUWT, is noteworthy in the dispute over Sats as being far less opposed to primary tests than the NUT or the heads' association. But this is attributable at least partly to the fact that most of its members work in secondary schools and thus are uninvolved in the business of teaching pupils to prepare for Sats.

Meanwhile, the proposal to retain the tests and scrap the tables would deny parents the most crucial tool at their disposal when it comes to making use of the data gleaned from the Sats. The real thrust of this proposal, and that of many others, seems to be to bury information, put it beyond reach, or render it so confusing as to be unintelligible .

The fact is that Sats, since their introduction in 1995, have been scaled back at the request of teachers' unions. Heads, meanwhile, possess many means at their disposal to influence and shape the debate about primary testing. They should beware of being seeing as an imitator of the militant NUT.

Head teachers need to work towards a way out of the current impasse on testing. If matters go as far as a boycott, that can only bring discredit on them, and may well be seen as a wrong-headed attempt to take away parents' right to know crucial facts about the schools to which they are sending their children.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing