Delegates at the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference in Cardiff have voted unanimously for a boycott of the hated Sats tests next year – if the government refuses to abolish them.
Teachers cheered and gave a standing ovation when the vote was taken.
Hazel Danson from the NUT executive moved a priority motion at conference, following an agreement by both the NUT and NAHT head teachers’ organisation to move towards a boycott of the tests. The NAHT is expected to pass the same motion to boycott the Sats at its upcoming conference.
Hazel said, “Sats do not raise standards – they are educationally barren. I want to teach children, but I don’t want to damage them or reduce them to being a number. Just let us get on with our job.”
No one spoke against the motion, but teachers were eager to speak in support of it. Sara Tomlinson from Lambeth NUT was cheered when she addressed the secretary of state for children, “Mr Balls, I hope you’re listening. The government calls us irresponsible for wanting to abolish Sats. But it is the government that is irresponsible for wanting to keep them.”
Several delegates also opposed Sats because they were parents and had seen the stress that Sats place on children. Polly Donnison, an NUT rep in Hackney, told Socialist Worker, “I’m opposed to Sats because of the pressure they put on kids and teachers. They narrow down the curriculum and distort learning.
“Year on year there is more pressure to perform well in Sats tests. But kids don’t learn anything new. Sats have become so embedded that some teachers don’t know anything different – they are destroying a creative approach to learning.”
Ivan Hickman, NUT divisional secretary in Stoke-on-Trent, agrees. “Sats are not about learning, they are just about testing,” he told Socialist Worker. “We are determined to get rid of a system that doesn’t work.”
“Sats are damning for the kids,” added Omar Akbar, an NUT rep in Birmingham. “Kids end up spending the whole year just preparing for Sats. The pressure is horrible. Sats cut kids off and label some as ‘thick’ from an early age.
“Kids don’t get a childhood anymore.”
Teachers will now be hoping that the government takes heed of the determined mood to get rid of the Sats tests. It has already abolished them for 14 year olds – now it needs to get rid of them for seven and 11 year olds as well. As another delegate, Ken Muller, put it, “Mr Balls: abolish Sats now or we will.”