5% of schools boycott SATS

FEWER than five per cent of schools due to take Level Two SATS tests in Suffolk boycotted the exams despite union action.

In Suffolk only 10 schools did not test their 11-year-old pupils, while in Essex 32 of the 397 primary schools boycotted the SATS tests.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) voted earlier this year to boycott the SATS for pupils at the age of 11.

Chris Harrison, of the NAHT in Suffolk, claimed pressure had been put on members in the county to put their pupils through SATS.

And other issues facing schools meant it was difficult for headteachers to spend too much time planning for a formal boycott.

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He said: “There have been individual letters sent to every headteacher in the county, and many of our members have felt quite intimidated.

“In some parts of the country there have been threats of sending in consultants to carry out the SATS tests.”

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Mr Harrison said the vote by NAHT members had been an “enabling” vote which did not force school heads to take action.

Only about 30% of the union’s members had taken part in the ballot. “This is a legally-constituted industrial dispute but so far as the NAHT is concerned there is no compulsion on our members to take part in it,” he said.

In Suffolk, many heads were very concerned about changes to the structure of schools in the county, with the three-tier system in the west and north of the county being replaced by a two-tier structure over the next few years.

Mr Harrison said many NAHT members were concentrating on preparing for this change and were not keen to be distracted.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “95% of Suffolk schools will be administering the Key Stage Two National tests as planned during the week of May 10.

“Suffolk schools have made determined efforts during this year to improve teaching and learning for primary age pupils.

“The local authority will be meeting with the small number of schools who have decided not to administer the tests to review the teacher assessments that they will want to have completed to assess children’s progress.”

Heads from 90 primary schools in the south of Suffolk have backed the concerns which prompted the NAHT action – although they are continuing to administer SATS.

Jan Seaborne, from Gorseland Primary in Kesgrave, is spokeswoman for the group and said they were concerned that the tests put too much pressure on a child’s single performance and led to unfair comparisons between schools.

She said: “We would prefer to use the well developed and more reliable systems of teacher assessments, which are based on the whole child over a longer period of time.”

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