Government gets tough on SATs boycott

29 Apr 2010

The government has pushed school governors into the firing line in the battle over the national curriculum tests for 11 year-olds in England.

 In a letter to school governing bodies, the Schools secretary, Ed Balls, has reminded governors that they have a 'statutory duty' to ensure the tests take place and that they should remind head teachers that they too are under an obligation to administer the tests, due next month.

The letter goes on to say that governors should be aware that it would be 'wrong' for head teachers to attempt to 'frustrate' another competent person from administering the tests.

Indeed, anticipating potential blocking action by head teachers, the letter says governors may wish to 'instruct the head teacher to remain absent from school at times when the tests are due to take place'.

This certainly puts governors in a difficult position since most governing bodies can only work effectively if they have a good and collaborative relationship with head teachers. I suspect it is unlikely that many governing bodies will attempt to go ahead with the tests if their head teacher is opposed to them.

The more uncertain question is how many heads will decide to go ahead with the test administration as a result of their own conscience.

Encouraging governors to get heavy handed may be counter-productive. 

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