Socialist Worker

Sats boycott strikes a blow against the market

by Nick Grant, NUT executive (pc)
Issue No. 2201

Around 50 people, including children’s author Alan Gibbons (pictured) came to an anti-Sats picnic in central London last Sunday		
 (Pic: Jess Edwards)

Around 50 people, including children’s author Alan Gibbons (pictured) came to an anti-Sats picnic in central London last Sunday (Pic: Jess Edwards)

Primary school head teachers have begun a boycott of the hated Sats tests for 11 year olds.

It is an incredible revolt by the education system’s officer class.

We know that at least a quarter of schools have taken up the boycott, organised by the NUT and NAHT unions.

That’s sufficient to invalidate any league tables and make it impossible for the government to use them to define schools as “failing” or otherwise.

Sats are the motor of market values in education.

They destroy education for millions of kids and turn them off education by labelling them as “failures” from a young age.

Sats and their accompanying league tables have gained an increasing stranglehold on schools.

That has sapped the will of headteachers to ­cooperate with them.

The so-called “failing” schools that Sats identify are for the most part located in deprived parts of England.

The tests reflect the distorted thinking of our politicians.

They expect teachers to be able to work miracles in overcoming poverty, unemployment, homelessness and reduced welfare services.

These are the real issues that wreck kids’ education.

Instead of tackling them, both Labour and Tory governments have turned to Sats and league tables to shift the blame on to the individual teachers and schools.

Sats are so crude a measure of any learner’s progress that they are positively misleading.

They reflect the ability of teachers to teach to a test and of kids to jump through hoops.

They put kids through incredible, unnecessary, stress and they destroy learning.

Rather than going home to share their new found knowledge with their families, they simply announce that they are “level this” or “level that”.

There is real potential to strengthen the battle against Sats.

Most of the schools that are not boycotting this time say that it is a lack of notice, not a love of the tests, that stopped them taking part this year.


Most say they would back a boycott from the start of the next academic year.

One reason for the ­widespread opposition to Sats among headteachers is that many heads in “failing” schools are being sacked.

This has fuelled the revolt against the tests.

Getting rid of Sats in England will boost real learning no end. It can be part of a process where schools become truly devoted to child development and the blossoming of ­everyone’s potential.

If a new government wants to use its officer class as a punchbag on this issue it might stoke up the wrong sort of ­outcry.

Rather than mock them, the foot soldiers—the teachers— might just join their insubordination and spread it—to things like boycotting Ofsted, for example.

Nick Grant is an Outer London NEC member for the NUT

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Article information

Tue 11 May 2010, 17:13 BST
Issue No. 2201
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