Not enough voters to strike over ‘high-stakes’ SATs tests

By Kit Heren

Primary school teachers are unlikely to be able to boycott “high-stakes” testing in May this year despite voting in favour of refusing to do them.

The trial vote of the Lewisham branch of the National Education Union (NEU) backed action by 87 per cent against standardised tests like SATs.

But only 25 per cent of eligible members took part in the ballot – so the NEU’s top officers are unlikely to back staging a formal ballot.

A 50 per cent turnout of members is required for a vote to be valid.

The tests evaluate school performance and children’s progress. Some teachers argue that schools focus too much on testing, which could be harmful for children.

Duncan Morrison, an official at the Lewisham NEU and a teacher at Deptford Park Primary School, said: “These tests are allegedly a performance check for schools, but actually they could be contributing to the mental health crisis we have in the UK at the moment.

“This is having a profound effect on our children, and it’s of no value to the children.

“We’re not saying teachers don’t have to be accountable, but we should trust the professionals who work in schools a bit more.

“Virtually everyone who works in schools does so to help kids. The result of the vote is very disappointing – even though 200 members voted in favour of a boycott, you need a 50 per cent turnout of our 900 members and we were short of that.”

Laura Parker, who teaches at the school in Evelyn Street, Deptford, said: “High-stakes testing like this encourages us to tailor our teaching to the tests.

“It makes us less creative, and that makes us worse teachers in the long run.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “These assessments should not be stressful for pupils.

“All over the world, schools guide children through assessments without them feeling pressured. This is how it should be.

“Tests over the course of a child’s education help us to understand how well schools are supporting children, and we trust teachers to administer them in an appropriate way.”

Children take phonics tests to help with reading in Year 1, SATs in Years 2 and 6 and “times tables” in Year 3.

SATs in Year 6 will be optional from 2023. The Government described the phonics screening as “a short, light touch assessment” in 2012, but later said that it could not find any improvements in children’s reading due to the tests.

According to the Children’s Society in 2019, nearly a third of parents of children aged four-17 said their child had mental health issues in the past year.

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