Education & Family

Heads pledge not to repeat Sats boycott

Boy doing Sats test
Image caption About one in four schools boycotted Sats tests this year

Heads have pledged not to repeat their Sats boycott next year after the government announced an independent review of England's primary tests.

The National Association of Head Teachers said being part of the review was their best chance to change the system.

Many NAHT and NUT members boycotted the tests this year.

The move comes after the education secretary wrote to the NAHT saying it should be fully involved.

Michael Gove's letter arrived days before the NAHT was due to discuss its forthcoming approach to assessment at a meeting of its executive council.

'Best opportunity'

The letter said the government continued to believe schools should be held to account and that pupil progress should be measured.

It added that it was not its intention that the system should be "punitive or unfair to schools working in difficult circumstances".

Mr Gove said: "I hope that NAHT will be fully involved in this review and would look forward to working closely with you to bring about real improvements to the testing and accountability system.

"It is clear that your members have strong views on this subject and professional buy-in is important in the success of any accountability system."

But he warned it would not be possible to introduce changes before the 2011 tests and asked for the union's support in the meantime.

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: "We took the view that it was a credible review.

"We are opposed to Sats, we think they are harmful to our children and our members, but this review gives us the best opportunity to change that regime.

"We think we can get more done than by boycotting the tests."

He said it was right to give the new government a chance, but acknowledged there would be a level of mistrust among members.

'Independence crucial'

He added: "I think the majority of members will want to give the government the benefit of the doubt but there will be a minority of members that are upset by the decision.

"I realise it's really hard to face another year of Sats but I think this is the best way of proceeding."

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said her union had held discussions with the government and welcomed the review.

"It is crucial that such a review is open and independent. Both the NUT and the NAHT will engage with the review in the interests of ensuring that a better system emerges.

"The NUT's executive will consider next year's tests, in the light of these developments, at an appropriate time."

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