The proposals from the Government’s’ Expert Group’ that SATs in English and maths should continue is not what campaigners expected. It’s clear that the proposed ‘stage not age’ tests outlined in the consultation document ’Making good progress’ are not ready and the Expert Group are asking for an extension of the current pilots as well as proposing further pilots on making teacher assessment more ‘rigorous’. In future, they think SATs may be able to be abolished, but not yet! We shouldn’t make too much of the decision to scrap the science tests. Whether the Rose report on the primary curriculum is implemented of not, his proposal for removing science from the ‘core’ reflects existing government thinking, which is to replace science with ICT as the third functional skill.
The National Association of Headteachers and the National Union of Teachers have both voted to boycott the SATs in 2010, but arguably, this strategy has been based on an assumption that the testing regime was going to be changed and they’d be able to negotiate a compromise in time for the new academic year. This is now unlikely to happen. Bounced into a ballot, their first ever national ballot for industrial action, the big question is whether the NAHT leadership, without the ‘organising culture’ of the NUT will be able to deliver. With the boycott likely to create a legal nightmare, in many respects the key players will be chairs of governors and their legal advisers. The attitude of the national governor organisations will also be extremely significant.
The Expert Group have turned the SATs debate into one of ‘accountability’. They are aware, even accept arguments about the educational shortcomings of the testing regime, but consider that the summative advantages of mass testing outweigh these. The government still wants to move towards the school report card rather than league tables as the main vehicle for providing information about schools, but they want all the information to be collated into a one report card grade.
Though the current trade union laws put a time limit on when action must take place after a successful ballot, NAHT and NUT must start preparing their members for a boycott from the end of the summer term to avoid teachers returning to school in September uncertain of what they will be teaching and how. As part of their campaign for SATs to be replaced by teacher assessment, they must also confront the Government’s market driven agenda head-on, coming up with real alternatives that will increase not only ‘accountability’ but also school democracy . With thousands of children, sitting their SATs this coming week it’s time to up the anti