Parents across England refused to take their six and seven year olds into schools on Tuesday. The “strike” was in protest at the hated Sats tests that turn schools into exam factories.
Groups of parents organised trips to museums or art galleries for children on the day, while others enjoyed picnics in parks.
Some brought banners to Westminster in central London and protested at the Department for Education. Children chanted, “No more Sats” and, “Let kids be kids”.
Parent Sophie said, “I’m here because the government is destroying our kids’ education.
“My daughter’s in year 1. She loves school and asks to go at the weekend. But next year she’ll be coached all year for the tests. That enthusiasm for learning won’t survive.”
Columbine, another parent, said Sats were “killing children’s creativity and willingness to learn”.
She added, “It’s totally inappropriate. And it’s bad for children’s mental and social development. Preparing for tests just takes time away from fun learning.”
Parent Louise said she was worried about the impact of testing on her son. She told Socialist Worker, “He’s got special educational needs and can hardly read. How is he going to do a Sats test?
“I’ve seen children who are being turned off learning. They don’t want to go to school and they’re crying because of the tests. I wonder how much of this is a cynical move to try and push through academies.”
Messages of support flooded in to the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign on Facebook. One parent said, “Children aren’t machines and it’s about time we stopped treating them like they are.”
Around 300 parents and children gathered in Sheffield’s Endcliffe Park, with more in Meersbrook Park.
Year 6 pupil Patrick said, “The Tories always pick on those weaker than them.
“They’ve got so cocky they think they can mess with one of the most important experiences of your life, education.”
The attacks on education have even pushed head teachers to speak out.
The Lancaster and District Primary Headteachers Group wrote to parents last week about Sats.
It said some children had only had two years to study the four-year curriculum they are being tested on.
The head teachers pointed to the real reason for the tests. They set children up to fail so the Tories can use the “failures” to attack teachers and schools—and push more privatisation.
But the Tories are on the rocks over their education policies. They recently backtracked on plans to use “baseline tests” of four year olds to rate primary schools. And they were forced to cancel one Sats test after it was leaked on the internet.
They are also in disarray over a plan to force all schools in England to become academies. The attacks have caused widespread anger—and politicised new layers of people.
Madeleine Holt is part of Rescue Our Schools, a new campaigning group that opposes forced academies and the “test-mad” culture in schools.
“Our campaign has exploded since we set it up,” Madeleine told Socialist Worker. “We set up Rescue Our Schools as we felt enough is enough. Many of our followers are not seasoned campaigners. But it’s time to stand up for state education.”
The NUT union plans to ballot members across England later this month for strikes against the impact of forced academies and funding cuts.
Even the NAHT head teachers’ organisation has threatened industrial action over forced academies. Education secretary Nicky Morgan was heckled at its annual conference last week.
A massive 95 percent of delegates backed a motion instructing the NAHT leadership to consider “as a last resort industrial action to ensure the defence of our comprehensive state education system”.
There is real potential to beat the government on some of its flagship policies—and give a boost to everyone who hates the Tories.
Strike vote to defend Simon O'Hara
Teachers at Small Heath School in Birmingham have voted by 83 percent for strikes if bosses sack their NUT union rep Simon O’Hara.
The turnout in the ballot was 88 percent.
The indicative ballot was for discontinuous action.
Bosses suspended Simon in January after he helped lead a series of strikes against the school being turned into an academy.
The union said the aim of the suspension was to target an effective union rep.
Bosses lifted the suspension in March, showing it had been imposed on flimsy grounds, then suspended him again.
NUT members at the school have so far taken ten days of strikes to demand Simon is reinstated.
The national union must throw its full weight behind the fight to defend Simon and the right to organise.