Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/324/9614
'No' To SATS: 'Yes' To A Boycott
TEACHERS IN the NUT, the biggest teaching union, are currently being balloted about boycotting SATs in primary schools at Key Stage 1 and 2. As the articles below show, a boycott would be welcomed by the thousands of teachers, parents and school students who have had enough of this testing madness.
Why I'm voting 'yes'
I AM eagerly awaiting the ballot paper to drop though my door so that I can vote 'yes' for a boycott of SATs and I would urge every primary teacher to do the same. As a Year 2 teacher, I believe that SATs are a damaging influence on my job as a teacher and are therefore bad for the children I am responsible for.
Jane Nellist, KS1 Teacher
SATs do not tell me anything that I don't already know. But it's far worse than that. Because of the constant pressure placed on every teacher to achieve higher and higher SATs scores, we inevitably pass on that stress to our class.
To try and teach a broad and balanced curriculum is nigh impossible. Art, music, PE and enjoyment have been squeezed out. The spontaneity of seizing an opportunity in class, that I believe is part of being a good teacher, is discouraged and my professional judgement is constantly being eroded.
I want the children I teach to get the most out of their education - I want them to achieve. I passionately believe that every child has a talent that we as teachers have to seek to develop and nurture and provide every opportunity for that to happen in school.
With the system that we have now with SATs and League Tables dominating our jobs I am increasingly frustrated, demoralised and angry. I will be voting 'yes' because SATs must go!
The agony of the SATS week
FOR THE first three mornings of SATs week my son lay on the floor and refused to get dressed.
The next two mornings he lay in my bed and said he was sick. Bedtimes were repetitive - time and again he got up to offer more excuses for keeping him off school. According to my son, five days in a row were spent in exam-room silence filling out sheets of SATs papers. I'm sure it felt that way to him.
SATs are competitive tests. They 'rank' my son's position within the school and the school's position in the league table. But just because he has done 'well' compared to his classmates in a particular subject, does not mean that he is doing the best he can. In his weaker subjects, a comparatively 'average' result is a good achievement.
At the end of SATs week my son had learnt nothing new - except that he hated 'tests'. When the SATs results were published, they told me nothing new about my son - or the school. So what was all the work, all the pain for?
I understand why some believed a league table would help. We want to know our children have the best opportunities. I want to know my children are safe and taught by qualified staff. But this is what School Inspections are for.
We already know that schools with smaller class sizes and better resources achieve better test results, and schools in socially deprived 'problem' areas are penalised and stigmatised by league tables.
I want to know that my son is achieving the best he can manage. But I learnt more about this from 15 minutes with his class teacher than his SATs results, which told me nothing meaningful about the quality of care and education he gets.
We really don't have a choice about the schools our children attend. The catchment areas are so small that 'choice' is not really part of the equation. If my school is low in the league table, what then? Do I move? Give up work to teach him myself? Pay for extra lessons? And what about the other children? In reality, our choices are limited.
So having suffered the agonies of SATs week, I am left with an exam-phobic child and information that serves no purpose.
As parents we must resist the pressure that the SATs put on children and teachers and insist that more investment is made to bring all our schools up to a decent standard. The best way to do this is non-co-operation - withdrawing our children from the tests - and by supporting teachers to boycott the SATs. To be effective, this needs to be done as part of a wide campaign with teaching staff and parents working together.
Parents against SATs
"Distressed at seven
Depressed at eleven
Scrap the SATs
Bring back a yearning for learning"
This is the motto of PASS, Parents Against SATs in Southwark. PASS was set up by a meeting of mainly parents with pre-school children, all distressed at the prospect of sending their children into primary schools with a test-based curriculum.
Lois Austin and Johanne Gemmel
Our main aim is to leaflet schools and talk to parents to convince them that they should support the teachers' boycott of SATs, if it takes place. We will be working alongside Southwark NUT.
We are also campaigning for more resources for Southwark schools.
Children are being turned away from local schools or school nurseries because there are not enough places. This is something we believe is unacceptable.
School students back the boycott
INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST Resistance (ISR) supports the NUT's decision to ballot to end these pointless exams which only cause stress and anxiety and don't help students at all.
In London there are many private schools where students don't have to take the tests. If they are so important a part of our education how come the schools with the best resources don't think they're necessary?
Secondary school teachers (Key Stage 3) will not be balloted until next year. But many ISR members and supporters in London are Year 9 students and wants to be involved in the campaign to get rid of SATs for all students. We are planning a series of ballots of students in different schools around London to show teachers that we support them and also that we can play a very important role.
If no teacher teaches the SATs and no student sits them then they will be unworkable. We can work together with the teaching trade unions to get rid of SATs. Ask who the NUT rep is in your school and ask them for support for your plans. Let your friends in other schools know what the plans are. Tell us and the teachers the results of your ballot.
After ISR conference we plan to concentrate on the anti-SATs campaign. We will have ballot cards, leaflets and badges available. Please contact ISR if you would like some of this material or information or advice on how to campaign against SATs in your school.
Contact ISR on 020 8558 7947
In The Socialist 22 November 2003: