1 Apr '13

News Teachers threaten to boycott 'meaningless' primary literacy tests

Primary school tests leave little time for art, music and books and make children feel like failures, teachers argue

Teachers are threatening to boycott "meaningless" new literacy tests for primary school pupils.

At its annual conference in Liverpool, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) passed a motion calling for a boycott of spelling, punctuation and grammar tests for 11-year-olds and a reading check for six-year-olds. Both were introduced this year.

Delegates urged the NUT to hold talks with other teaching unions with a view to boycotting the tests next year. The union's members would need to be balloted for the action to go ahead.

The tests leave little time for art, music and books and make children feel like failures, teachers argue.

Since 1995, children have been required to sit literacy and numeracy tests in their last year of primary school. This year, they include a spelling, grammar and punctuation paper.

Ministers have also introduced a reading test to be taken by six-year-olds. This uses phonics – a system that encourages children to use sounds to decipher words.

Joan Edwards, a primary teacher from Birmingham, said Michael Gove, the education secretary, wanted a "world without music, without art, without creativity".

"We as teachers want a more balanced education for our children. We want children to develop a love of reading, not reading for a test," she said.

Philipa Harvey, a primary teacher from Croydon, said the tests were too prescriptive.

The NUT's motion stated that the union "condemned the manipulation of the primary curriculum and teaching methods through the imposition of unnecessary tests, in particular Year 1 phonics screening and the Year 6 spelling, punctuation and grammar test".

Christine Blower, the NUT's general secretary, said the tests would leave many children feeling a failure.

"Primary school teachers are desperately concerned about what the school day will come to mean for their pupils," she said. "The proposed primary curriculum will set education back generations. We need to ensure that children are given a love of learning, reading, writing and maths but this is not the right way to go about it."

The NUT has already called this weekend for a boycott of school inspections.

Delegates urged the union to investigate "as a matter of urgency" ways in which they can take action against the inspectorate, including a boycott, despite warnings that such a move would be illegal.

In 2010, teachers in a quarter of primary schools boycotted tests for 11-year-olds.

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